Drummer Neal Smith
has a hell of a group here – Eric Alexander on tenor, Steve Wilson on alto, Mark Whitfield on guitar, and Mulgrew Miller on piano – a lineup that he more than lives up to with his tight leadership, and great choice of material for the date! The tunes include two numbers by Tom McIntosh – a telling inclusion, given the way the album brings together the same strands of soul, swinging, and cerebral that McIntosh brought to his compositions in the early 60s. Smith
's got a great way of bringing out the most sensitive aspects of the tunes, while still setting the players free to find their own voice – thanks partly to the long takes on these live recordings – and titles include "Fifty Six", "Stew Peas", "A Portrait Of You", "With Malice Towards None", "The Cup Bearers", and "Junior".