Kirk MacDonald's first album as a leader is a hard driving-blowing session, with an occasional break in the action for a ballad. But even the ballads have that John Coltrane edge to them as the players inventively weave in and out and up and around the melody line. This session features 4 standards and 7 originals, all but one of the latter written by one of the performers. MacDonald gets his playing directions from the heavyweights of Hard Bop saxophone John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, with some of Joe Henderson's mannerisms apparent as well. But he shows his individual creativity on "Poinciana" where his tenor takes on the robust, full sound of a baritone player. Mark Eisenman's piano plays a transitional role as MacDonald moves back and forth between playing the melody straight and improvising. MacDonald receives steady, solid support from his musical comrades throughout this session. Especially prominent is Sam Noto's hard driving trumpet, both in the solo mode and in ensemble work, as on "Carnival."Steve Wallace's bass does much more than keep time, as shown his dexterous fingering on "Sweet Spot." A 13 minute plus "But Not for Me" is done almost as a round, with MacDonald and Noto constantly trading ideas as they musically discuss this classic. While enough room is allowed on each track for individual expression, anarchy does not reign. Sufficient structure is maintained to keep the playing cohesive, meaningful and therefore, entertaining. As long as Kirk MacDonald continues to ply his musical wares, the bop flame will continue to glow.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan