It is sad to learn that Vol. 30 of Steeplechase's long-running jam sessions in the studio will be the last. Like earlier releases, producer Nils Winther gathered several favorite horn soloists and paired them with a top-notch rhythm section, with the only instructions being no rehearsals aside from a brief rundown of each piece's theme and the solo order. Four solid tenor saxophonists include Don Braden (who also doubles on alto flute), Wayne Escoffery, Jimmy Greene, and Stephen Riley, with three veterans in the rhythm section, including Winther's top choice for pianist, Andy LaVerne; bassist Steve LaSpina; and drummer Billy Drummond. While even studio jam sessions can be hit-and-miss affairs, this is not at all the case with this final date. Starting off with "Back Up," an infrequently recorded blues by the late organist Larry Young, the four saxophonists offer interesting contrasts in their respective solos, never sounding like a "repeating pencil" (as Lester Young once described a boring soloist). The one standard of the date is "Darn That Dream," a surprisingly short performance that clocks in at just over six minutes, though all four men prove themselves as ballad masters. The prolific LaVerne always can be counted on to bring new material to a record date, and though his "Twin Towers" acknowledges the tragic events of 9/11 in its title, it is very much a hopeful, upbeat bop vehicle that swings. Perhaps Nils Winther will reconsider his decision to end his Jam Session series, but even if he holds to his decision, the series will have ended on a high note.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden