Although he had a solid track record as a sidemen in the 1980s and 1990s that included stints with Loren Schoenberg, Buck Clayton and the Count Basie "ghost orchestra," it wasn't until 1997's Soul Carnival that Doug Lawrence first recorded as a leader. This post-bop/hard bop date reinforced what his work as a sideman had shown: the tenor saxophonist may not be an innovator, but he's a convincing, expressive soloist who is well served by such influences as Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons. With Lawrence having done so much big band work, it was nice hearing him in a looser, more intimate quintet setting that includes Ray Macchiarola, pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist John Webber and drummer Leroy Williams. Lawrence's choice of material includes some obvious selections (J.J. Johnson's "Lament" and the standard "Indian Summer," for example), but he also unearths a few treasures that hadn't been done to death by jazzmen, including the charming "Stranger In Paradise," Tommy Turrentine's "Light Blue" and Lee Morgan's neglected modal classic "Mr. Kenyatta." This isn't an earth-shattering album, but it's satisfying and enjoyable.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson