Utilizing the same group of musicians that appeared on Airto Moreira and Flora Purim’s 2000 album, Perpetual Motion, of which Meek was a participant, has ensured a certain continuity and chemistry. Whether it is on the lengthy version of Chick Corea’s relaxed "Time’s Lie," or on Meek’s own modal workout, "Workin’," the group displays an energy and subtlety that puts this album at the top of the heap of contemporary jazz recordings. It’s especially nice to hear Moreira playing a kit again; bassist Trey Henry works with him hand-in-glove; and pianist Christian Jacob covers all the bases, providing a rich backdrop for Meek’s improvisation as well as some nimble soloing of his own.
Step 7 covers a lot of territory: there’s the breezy Brazilian title track; the bossa-informed "When Love Appears"; the big band sound of Meek’s "Toby’s Blues" and Earl Hagens’ "Harlem Nocturne"; the straight-ahead swing of Charlie Parker’s "Be-Bop"; and the tender closer, Bob Telson’s "Calling You."
Throughout, Meek shows that he has learned much from his associations with artists as diverse as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Al Jarreau and, of course, Moreira/Purim. He seems to instinctively know exactly what each tune is calling for, and delivers solos that are rich and full of emotion. He clearly knows his roots, as on the other modal piece, "Waltz for Mo"; but he always manages to put a personal slant on things.
Journeyman musicians often have a difficult time transitioning to the leader’s chair, but Gary Meek shows, with Step 7 that he is more than comfortable in that seat as well; on an album that is as impeccably recorded as it is performed, Meeks delivers a fine recording of contemporary jazz that has something for everyone, and will hopefully tell a broader audience what many musicians already know.