This CD features pianist Joel Forrester near the beginning of his career. It is always enjoyable to hear adventurous musicians do their take on bebop, and much more fun than listening to revivalists try to re-create the excitement of the past. This 1999 release of previously unheard music has the feel of a well-organized rehearsal and contains more than its share of colorful moments. Forrester takes "Getting Started" (which is supposed to be reminiscent of Charles Mingus' playing on "I Can't Get Started" but is actually closer to Bud Powell on "All God's Chillun") as a trio romp with bassist Dewey Dellay and drummer Richard Dworkin. Although essentially bop, there are spots where Forrester makes it obvious that it was 1980 and not 1950. Both "Mary" (a spontaneous improvisation on a theme that Forrester had been toying with for a decade) and "Dr. Real" (a bizarre stride piece) are piano solos. The one non-Forrester original, Thelonious Monk's "Work," is played by a quartet with soprano saxophonist Phillip Johnston, bassist Dave Hofstra, and drummer Denis Charles. Singer Shelley Hirsch joins the group on the nutty 5/4 piece "He Do"; her expert wordless vocalizing (which is often heard in the ensembles) is also in evidence on the other four pieces which use a septet (with Hirsch, Hofstra, Charles, Johnston, trumpeter Tony Salazar and veteran tenor saxophonist Lucky Ennett). Of those numbers, "Lt. Cassowary" is an odd boogie-woogie piece, "Until Tomorrow" is a Latin number, "Portrait of Denis Charles" gives the veteran drummer some breaks, and "A Clean Break" is a brief closing theme. Although there are some good moments from the horns, the obvious stars of this early effort are Forrester and Hirsch.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow