Jerome Richardson, a valuable reed player since the mid-'50s, has been on a countless number of recordings, often in an anonymous or barely featured role. He has led very few record sessions of his own throughout his career, yet has long been a talented soloist on alto, tenor, flute, and soprano. In 1996, when he had the opportunity to lead a date, Richardson made the most of the opportunity. Although the music is mostly straightforward, no-nonsense bebop, eight of the numbers are Richardson's; the others are Dizzy Reece's midtempo blues "Con Man" and a pair of Duke Ellington ballads ("Warm Valley" and "In a Sentimental Mood"). Of the originals, only "Groove Merchant" (easily Richardson's best-known song) has been around a while. The newly composed pieces each have catchy and hummable melodies, along with viable chord changes. Pianist David Hazeltine, who sometimes plays in more modern settings, comes across here as a classic bebop player in the style of Barry Harris. The rhythm section includes bassist George Mraz and either Lewis Nash or Dennis Mackrel on drums; they swing supportively under the occasional solos from either Russell Malone or Howard Alden on guitar. Richardson is mostly heard on alto but also playing a bit of soprano and flute; whether jamming bop, putting plenty of warmth into "Warm Valley," or interacting with the rhythm section, he has rarely sounded better.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow