Although Steve Rudolph belongs to the class of jazz musicians who favor a relaxed, lyrical approach to the piano, every now and then he can startle with off-center chords a la Thelonious Monk as on his own "This One's for You, Bud." This technique helps to make the work interesting and keeps the listener alert. Beginning as a trumpet player, Rudolph switched to piano when he was 22. His big break came when Buddy Morrow hired him to play with the Tommy Dorsey ghost band. This album is his first as a leader and emphasizes his delicate (but not dainty) stylizing with a play list sprinkled with familiar and original material. As much as any cut on the album, Paul Desmond's lovely waltz, "Wendy," catches the spirit and grace of Rudolph's way with the piano. This tune reflects Desmond's character: dry, laid-back, and uncomplicated, all with a smile. You hear the smile in Rudolph's interpretation, which would have brought one to Desmond's face. Rudolph pays homage to another influence, Bill Evans, with an appealing version of Evans' "Two Lonely People." The informative intervention throughout this piece by bass player Steve Varner recalls Scott LaFaro's contributions to Evans' most significant trio. A further nod is given Evans with a pensive but lilting "Three for B. E." Roger Humphries reveals his roots as Horace Silver's drummer by laying down rhythmic patterns in support of the piano as well as some intelligent but not overbearing soloing on such cuts as "Everything I Love." Low keyed and well-textured, this is an album of assured and confident performances by a group that shows a strong allegiance to and respect for melody. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan