Trombonist Grachan Moncur III, who was a member of the Jazztet in the early 1960s, gained his greatest fame for his two Blue Note albums (Evolution and Some Other Stuff) which were quite adventurous. He also worked with Archie Shepp, became involved in free jazz and spent much of the 1970s and '80s as a music educator. Dental problems resulted in Moncur only playing once in a great while in the 1990s. He had been in obscurity for quite awhile when he was contacted by arranger Mark Masters for the Exploration project. Fortunately Moncur's playing proved to still be in his prime. Masters wrote sympathetic charts for many of the trombonist's finest pieces, utilizing an all-star nonet that could really dig into the inside/outside music. "Excursion," a very coherent three-minute free improvisation, is a change-of-pace and precedes the closing blues "Sonny's Back," a 1962 piece originally played by the Jazztet. This CD overall is very rewarding, a dream project for those who have long admired the underrated Grachan Moncur. The musicians have their solos, there are both written and improvised ensembles and Moncur plays wonderfully throughout. This set, which sums up Grachan Moncur's career definitively, is a gem.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow