Tenor saxophonist Mark O'Connor (not to be confused with the veteran violinist, guitarist and mandolin player with the same name) should surprise many jazz fans with his striking debut as a leader. Utilizing a rotating cast of talented musicians in either quintet or quartet settings; the Chicago-based musician's confident and full-bodied sound belies his youth on this post-bop oriented date. Six of the ten selections are his own, especially the challenging, well-named opener ("The Beast") and the free-spirited mixed meter "Mirage." Neither is he a slouch as an interpreter of ballads, which include two works by the matchless team of Rodgers & Hart: a loping treatment of "With a Song in My Heart" and a touching take of "It's Easy to Remember." Finally, his driving rendition of Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae" wraps the CD with a flourish.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden