Tenor saxophonist Martin Krusche makes his recording debut as a leader with this live session from the New Orleans jazz club Snug Harbor. With four of the Crescent City's leading players, including trumpeter Nicholas Payton, the German-born Krusche performs an appealing, laid-back program of originals and standards in a modern, hard bop vein. The recording, before a small, attentive, appreciative audience, is very good. With a tone from somewhere in John Coltrane/Stan Getz territory, Krusche reels out long, sinewy, original ideas. Payton's burnished, cornet-like sound usually stresses warm tones, but also blisters and peels paint when required. Pianist Victor Atkins' approach, reminiscent of Cedar Walton's playing with the Jazz Messengers in the 1960s, balances a flowing melodic style with a driving, propulsive rhythm attack. Bassist David Pulphus and drummer Geoff Clapp round out the quintet with competent, undemonstrative support. The well-paced set begins with a pair of medium-tempo Krusche originals, followed by a masterful treatment of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and Krusche's own ballad "I'd Like to Sing." The second half of the CD steadily cranks up the heat, leading to a phenomenal version of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes." The quintet's treatment of this popular vehicle has an extraordinarily sustained, surging flow of positive energy over its nearly ten minutes. Krusche, Payton, and Atkins all turn in inspired solos. This is a generously timed set (nearly 72 minutes), although the longest track, Krusche's "Southern Belles," overstays its welcome with insistent repetition of its annoyingly static vamp. Let that not be a deterrent, though. Friendship Pagoda's version of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" alone is worth the price of admission.
AllMusic Review by Jim Todd