The Tunnel is a classic study in "How to Make a Modern Tenor Sax Album." Any album featuring tenor sax since 1939 must include that stand-by "Body and Soul." Saxophonist Tim Zannes and pianist Dan Wall take it as a duet, recalling the great collaboration between John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, with Wall showing he’s studied his Ducal voicings well. Zannes then channels Trane again, duetting with Carmen Castaldi (in the role of Elvin Jones) on an "Impressions"-like "The Crucible." Castaldi is somewhat smoother than the great Elvin before the whole quartet joins in, but Zannes continues Traneish all the way. Wall shows that you can play in McCoy Tyner’s spirit without actually copying him with a wonderful stop-and start solo.
Fun rears its head as Zannes puts a wonderfully Monkish theme over picture-perfect organ on "Mean Baby." Wall shows fine B-3 chops on this blues. Also, bassist Peter Dominguez walks with the best of them, bringing this cut to a tasty simmer.
Zannes stays in Monk’s world for a hilarious "Bath Time for Moose and Betty." One can assume Moose and Betty must be quite a handful in the Zannes household, especially at bath time. This cut gives us the opportunity to note how tight this quartet really is.
Modern sax man Sam Rivers is saluted with his composition "Beatrice," one of the truly classic lines of the last forty years. Wall lays out, thus opening up the harmonic possibilities for Zannes and crew.
The only complaint, therefore, is the title cut, which closes the album. Up to now melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic displays have been near perfect, but Zannes inexplicably throws a completely free piece at us, which after the straight-ahead feast that precedes it, comes off as self-indulgence. Ah, well. I guess that’s what programmable CD players are for. Skip this cut, and you have one of the finest saxophone quartet albums you’re ever likely to hear.