This session, under the leadership of trumpeter Louis Smith, brings hard bop veterans together with a couple newcomers who were at the time helping to revive the style. This is the kind of recording session where one gets a taste of the fireworks that would result from a live jam session featuring the participants. Each soloist launches into the heart of the tune, cutting out the preliminaries and never reaching the heights more extended blowing would allow. Each song gives the frontline and pianist Kevin Hays a chance to have their say. The hornmen have complementary yet distinctive approaches. Tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, like Smith a former member of Horace Silver's combo, is a study in soulful reserve, whittling statements from the grain of the tunes. Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, in contrast, plays with barely restrained passion. He can't seem to wait to burst into doubletime. On &"Stablemates" he picks up Cook's last phrase and rips ahead like the anchor runner on a relay team. The leader's style has Cook's restraint matched with Herring's penchant for rapid fire runs. No matter how fast he plays, though, he never loses his knack for plucking the plumpest notes off the chords. That harmonic structure is well rooted by the rhythm section, especially bassist Steve LaSpina. On the ballad &"Don't Misunderstand", LaSpina burrows deep to create a melodic as well as harmonic counterline to Smith's tender theme and variations.
AllMusic Review by David Dupont