Warren Vaché and John Allred have played numerous times together, working at jazz parties and club dates, as well as making an earlier CD for Arbors. Accompanied by pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist Nicki Parrott, and drummer Leroy Williams, they explore more than a few forgotten gems that have plenty of potential, starting with the snappy rendition of trumpeter Blue Mitchell's "Top Shelf," a breezy bop vehicle with on-the-money ensembles and tight solos all around. Thelonious Monk's "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues" is one of his less frequently performed works, but the quintet plays it with the wry sense of humor that is a part of many of the jazz legend's pieces. Cannonball Adderley's sassy, loping blues "Spontaneous Combustion" is full of fire, while Parrott's bop vehicle "Aussieology" crackles with energy as well. There are a number of familiar songs as well. The interplay between the leaders is the highlight of the standard "By Myself." The quintet begins with a free-form introduction to "Parisian Thoroughfare" that is somewhat reminiscent of the hilarious duo recording by Jaki Byard and Roland Kirk, though their interpretation is at a far more relaxed tempo, much like a brisk stroll that still allows time to see the sights. Top Shelf is a welcome alternative to the many jazz CDs of all originals by young unknowns or all familiar repertoire by artists of all ages.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden