Michael Marcus straddles the line between hard bop and beyond, and this solid release typifies his output. Focusing on somewhat underplayed standards, such as Johnny Carisi's "Israel" and John Coltrane's "Dear Lord," and adding several original compositions, Marcus performs with characteristically adventurous élan. Of course, it helps to be supported by the Jaki Byard Trio, one of the best rhythm sections with which to record. Like Byard, Marcus is a renaissance person capable of playing a variety of styles on the cuff. While nothing here cries out as a definitive version, everything is played with the precision and professionalism for which Marcus and Byard are known. Marcus is often identified with his work on the stritch (a modified soprano sax) and the saxello (a straight alto sax), both of which he plays here, but he adds a "straight" tenor sax which he had first tried only a few days before this recording. Marcus rightfully respects his musical history, and the interpretations of Monk and Tadd Dameron, not to mention Brian Wilson's "Surfer Girl," make for some convincing moments. While this might be a more "conventional" recording than some of his others, it is nonetheless a powerful one and shows that Michael Marcus understands his roots and is capable of building on them to good effect.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy