Ralph Lalama / Ralph Lalama Quartet

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While tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama has been infrequently recorded as a leader, he has found a champion in Jerry Roche, founder and owner of the Mighty Quinn label. Lalama's second release for the label utilizes the same band (guitarist John Hart, bassist Rick Petrone, and drummer Joe Corsello) as on his successful date Energy Fields. But the saxophonist doesn't settle for a heavy mix of familiar standards and bop vehicles, instead exploring rarely covered gems like Wayne Shorter's constantly twisting “Marie Antoinette" (though no one on the date loses their head) and an invigorating workout of Duke Pearson's intricate blues “Minor League." The quartet's funky arrangement of Stevie Wonder's “Livin for the City" works very well. One unique feature of the CD is that Lalama devotes one cut apiece to focus on duo improvisations with each of his musicians. The one very familiar song is an extended, loping workout of “I'm an Old Cowhand," made famous in jazz circles by Sonny Rollins' trio version on Way Out West, though the additional of Hart's guitar gives it a very different sound and helps to keep it from running out of steam. This is an enjoyable session that is easily one of Ralph Lalama's best dates as a leader.

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