Alan Dawson was a highly respected jazz drummer and educator; in spite of his lengthy discography, this 1992 studio session proved to be his only date as a leader, though it wasn't released until 2002, some six years after his death. Not only is Dawson's matchless drumming a key component of this CD, he records several of his compositions and arrangements, and he also plays vibes on two tracks. The core band includes trumpeter and flugelhornist Bill Mobley, pianist James Williams (with Donald Brown subbing on four songs), and bassist Ray Drummond, though it isn't clear which tenor saxophonist -- Billy Pierce or Andy McGhee -- is present when there is but one, presumably it is Pierce. Tony Reedus takes over the drums when Dawson moves to the vibes. Dawson's sauntering "Penta Blues" and "Two Stepped" (his reworking of the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream") feature both tenor saxophonists. "Waltz for Flo" is a tasty bossa nova dedicated to the leader's wife. James Williams' smoking vehicle, "1993 A.D.," features an extended drum solo by the leader. Donald Brown's "Havana Days" is driven by Dawson's crisp percussion, with potent solos by Mobley (on trumpet) and Pierce. Explosive takes of "Airegin" and "Joshua" are also a treat. Dawson switches to vibes for a lush treatment of "Little Man, You've Had a Busy Day," while his brilliant technique in a Latin-flavored treatment of "Old Devil Moon" makes one wish he had recorded more often on the instrument. Alan Dawson's sole recording as a leader should be considered essential.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden