After spending much of his career in a sideman capacity, Larry Steen made his recording debut as a leader with 1996's First Move, a promising release that emphasizes the electric bassist's own compositions. This CD (which employs such notables as saxman Ernie Watts, pianist/keyboardist Bill Cunliffe, and drummer Dave Weckl) essentially falls into the fusion category, although it isn't the type of fusion that favors chops for the sake of chops. Steen's chops are impressive, but instead of beating listeners over the head with technique, he generally prefers to be lyrical and tell stories. Many of those stories have a global, multicultural outlook, and the improviser takes us to Cuba with "Seven Come Five," the Middle East with the title song, and Africa with "Nigerian Dream" and "Salif Meets Ralph." But instead of actually using ethnic instruments such an Arabic oud, a Turkish saz, or an African kalimba, Steen sticks with standard jazz instruments. In 1996, Steen was hardly the first jazzman to experiment with world music -- everyone from Duke Ellington to John Coltrane to Yusef Lateef had long since fused jazz with music from all over the globe. But while this album isn't innovative, it does have some freshness. First Move indicated that Steen was someone to watch out for.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson