Despite making a name for himself as a sideman with Della Reese, and in the orchestras of Bobby Bryant, Gerald Wilson, and Don Ellis, tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman didn't cut this, his debut album as a leader, until he was 39 years old. (He cut less than ten in his lifetime.) His sidemen here include bassist Bill Douglas, drummer Clarence Becton, pianist Larry Vuckovich, and guitarist John White, Jr. Among the highlights is opener "Cigar Eddie," one of Caliman's four compositions (and one he would revisit throughout his lifetime). A strutting soul-jazz groove put forth by a four-four snare, hit-hat shuffle, a big woody bassline, and some funky blues comping by White, introduces both the saxophonist's melody and solo, wrapped into one. Vuckovich covers the progression when White leads his wrangling, Gabor Szabo-esque solo before the melody returns. "Comencio" opens with gorgeous bass harmonics. When Caliman takes off with the melody in that big fat tone of his, one can hear how deeply he studied Coltrane's modalism, but his phrasing is his own. Also worthy of note are the two near symbiotic exchanges between the bassist and drummer. "Kicking on the Inside" is an outlier here due to its more involved melody, and the spacious arrangements layer the interplay between Caliman, Vuckovich (who uses really imaginative chord voicings even while comping), and Douglas, whose swing and lyricism are especially notable. The only irritating thing on the record takes place in this track though: Bob Shad's reverb-laden "psychedelic" production on the drum solo at the end. "Longing," the set closer, written by the pianist, features Caliman's exceptionally lyric voice on the flute -- it was this track that Carlos Santana was so taken with that he asked him to play on Caravanserai a couple of years later. Despite the fact that this isn't the most fully confident release in Caliman's Mainstream catalog (that's reserved for Iapetus, released a year later), it is noteworthy for introducing a very solid and creative voice on the tenor horn, as well as Vuckovich's and especially Douglas' playing. If it has any real faults, it's ultimately that the leader proves too democratic at his own expense. This serves as an introduction to a fine re-appraisal of one of jazz's more forgotten talents.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek