Onaje Allan Gumbs has plenty of surprises in store for jazz fans in Sack Full of Dreams. Joined by bassist Marcus McLaurine (who has worked extensively with Clark Terry) and drummer George Gray, plus a few guests, Gumbs puts new twists on both familiar jazz pieces and songs not normally associated with jazz, as well as his own superb originals. His deliciously funky take of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" adds guitarist Bob DeVos and percussionist Gary Fritz, while his easygoing interpretation of the late Gary McFarland's ballad "Sack Full of Dreams" features the warm vocals of Obba Babatunde. Gumbs' breezy arrangement of "The Fishin' Pond" turns a once easygoing ballad with whistling into a hard bop cooker, though it should be familiar to those who watched The Andy Griffith Show. "Try to Remember" was the prominent recurring theme in the long-running Broadway musical The Fantasticks, though Gumbs plays a beautiful improvisation of it with the reverence of an offertory solo in church; not surprisingly, this track is dedicated to his late mother. Gumbs' compositions include the spirited blues "'Nitelife" and the reflective ballad "Lament," both featuring tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, though his roots funk jam "Stank You Very Much" quickly gets tedious. Finally, McLaurine contributed the infectious samba "Destiny." This CD should be considered one of Onaje Allan Gumbs' most essential recordings.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden