Pianist Richard Sussman led a quintet in the late 1970s and made one record (Free Fall) for Inner City, though after going to Europe for a time, he was unable to land another record deal as a leader. After years of working in a supporting role by touring with various pop and rock acts, along with the occasional jazz gig and teaching at the Manhattan School of Music, Sussman was able to reunite his quintet for some dates in 2003, when this CD was recorded at Sweet Rhythm in New York City. In the decades that passed, both trumpeter Tom Harrell and tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi have made names for themselves with their writing and extensive recordings, while bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jeff Williams have been in demand as well.
For those not familiar with Sussman's earlier quintet recording, his potent post-bop compositions provide potent ammunition for the group, which doesn't sound like it is playing a brief reunion after a quarter-century layoff. Sussman's powerful post-bop vehicle is similar in flavor to Hal Galper's late-'70s quintet pieces, though the pianist's approach to his instrument is more relaxed and less turbulent. Bergonzi is featured in Sussman's lush arrangement of Tadd Dameron's "Soultrane," with the saxophonist evoking the spirit of John Coltrane without resorting to mere mimicry. Harrell's showcase is a breezy setting of Bob Haggart's timeless ballad "What's New," which is full of humorous moments throughout his solo. But it is "Free Fall," the extended Sussman work which closes this release, which proves to be the most captivating. The brief introduction sets up a solo by Williams, leading to free jazz sections showcasing Harrell and Bergonzi before the leader takes things further out then returns to a driving post-bop setting to wrap the performance with an explosive finish. Hopefully, Richard Sussman won't have to wait another 25 years to land his next record deal.