Bassist Christian McBride was already turning heads as a teenaged sideman with Benny Green during the early '90s, showcasing formidable technique and imagination in his solos. Over the two decades since then, McBride has demonstrated his skills as a bandleader, composer, and arranger as well. After 15 years of studying big-band charts, experimenting, and writing, McBride developed sufficient material for a CD, recruiting some of New York's best and busiest players, including saxophonists Steve Wilson, Ron Blake, and Loren Schoenberg, trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Frank Greene, and trombonists Steve Davis, Michael Dease, and Douglas Purviance, plus pianist Xavier Davis and drummer Ulysses Owens (among others). Six of the 11 pieces are originals, highlighted by the funky, playful "Bluesin' in Alphabet City," the ambitious, multifaceted "Science Fiction," and the upbeat, boisterous post-bop cooker "The Shade of the Cedar Tree." Vocalist Melissa Walker shines on several tracks, including a warm setting of "When I Fall in Love" that opens with the leader's arco solo and a pulsating rendition of Bobby Scott's "A Taste of Honey" that is scored with rich ensemble work behind the singer. The solos by McBride, Blake, Wilson, and Dease especially stand out, though everyone who takes a turn delivers a top-drawer effort. With this fine effort, it's safe to say that Christian McBride's talents as a writer have grown to match his considerable chops as a bassist.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden