Leading two separate acoustic groups, drummer Joel Chassan has a competent, if conventional, hard bop/post-bop release in First Things First. Chassan isn't a forceful drummer a la Art Blakey or Art Taylor; his touch is lighter, and he sometimes brings to mind Shelly Manne. The New Jersey resident's featured soloists include guitarists Randy Johnston and Eddie MacEachen, pianist Joel Weiskopf and saxmen Tim Hegarty and Mack Goldsbury; he is subtle yet confident on fast pieces like "Lover Come Back to Me" and Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning," as well as more contemplative versions of "You Go to My Head," "Nature Boy" and Benny Golson's "Whisper Not." A few of the songs were written by Chassan himself, including the congenial "Welcome Home" and the angular "Box in a Box." Nothing innovative or earth-shattering occurs, but the CD was enjoyable and tasteful enough to indicate that Chassan had some potential.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson