Australian guitarist Steve Brien spent most of the '90s living in New York, working with such artists as Phil Wilson, Giacomo Gates, and Ralph Lalama. Brien subsequently returned to his native land to teach jazz guitar and play gigs. This album compiles two New York recording sessions from 1994 and 1995. One features a fellow Aussie, tenor saxman Dale Barlow, and the other hard bop tenor Ralph Lalama and trombonist Dave Panichi. Regardless of which group is playing, this album is laid-back, straight-ahead bop-influenced jazz. Nothing gets too excitable here, as both groups recall Blue Note sessions of the '60s with the likes of Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, and Grant Green. Barlow's tenor has more of a bite to it than Lalama's, but their ideas about the music coincide in a no-nonsense, let's-not-lose-sight-of-the-melody manner. Both provide a framework for Brien to work with his clean-cut, relaxed guitar. On Jimmy Heath's "C.T.A.," Brien embarks on a long solo where he effectively ad libs, but never moves far from his low-key, thinking man's approach to the guitar. Every nook and cranny of the Earl Brent/Matt Dennis tune "Angel Eyes" is explored during a ten-minute workout, which has a soulful Barlow sax solo with Brien comping underneath. The Lalama sessions have the extra added attraction of some solid bop trombone playing by Panichi, which he uses effectively on "Blueish," one of the two compositions by the bass player on the set, Joel Forbes. The other, "Lenore," is the stage for Lalama's major sax solo. This is a fine album of melodic, laid-back, understated jazz and is recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan