Don Sickler became one of the most in-demand jazz arrangers during the 1980s, and these 1990 studio sessions gave him an opportunity to record under his own name. Assembling a first-rate band mixing veterans and younger musicians, Sickler put together a program consisting of overlooked gems written by Kenny Dorham, Walter Davis, Jr., Elmo Hope, and even Charles Mingus. Dorham's "Hill's Edge" (a brisk reworking of "Tune Up") showcases trombonist Carl Fontana, alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli (Sickler's bandmate in drummer T.S. Monk's group), tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, and the leader. Sickler's background scoring for the horns and reeds in Davis' "On the Real Side" and Hope's moody "Barfly" reveals the potential of these important but unjustly obscure works. Mingus' "Scenes in the City" originally contained narration, but the arranger converted a phrase from the piece into a motif utilized throughout this multifaceted portrait of a metropolis. The band also includes baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, pianist Richard Wyands, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Kenny Washington. Given the outstanding quality of this project, label owners ought to give free rein to Don Sickler for similar recordings in the future.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden