Kevin Hays recorded this early session (his second as a leader) in 1990, at the age of 22. Originally released in 1991 on the JazzCity import label, the disc was reissued in the U.S. in 1998 by Evidence. The young pianist is joined by alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Bill Stewart, and on four tracks, the tenor titan Joe Henderson. Hays' writing and playing are remarkably advanced, particularly on "Emperor Leon" (dedicated to drummer Leon Parker) and "The Brahmin's Son," an extended piece inspired by Herman Hesse. Quartet renderings of "The Good Life" and John Coltrane's "Like Sonny" also appear, along with a full quintet arrangement of Hindemith's "Nobilissima Visione," on which Henderson truly shines. Steve Wilson's angular blues-head "No Such Luck" closes the set. El Matador is a vital addition to Hays' discography, even after the fact.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler