Particularly strong is the contribution of the volatile and versatile tenor sax player Jimmy Roberts. As well, the tightly integrated rhythm section of David Lavray, bass, and Evan Stone, drums, lay down a solid foundation throughout.
The program, as the title implies, is divided between innovative arrangements of standards and sparkling originals. A highlight is the venerable ballad "Angel Eyes," featuring Mullins' moody meditation, giving off a definite film noir feel. He is joined by Roberts’ misty contribution, deepening the vibe.
Coltrane’s "Giant Steps" shows Mullin’s creativity as he turns the classic into an up-tempo romp, Roberts solo here paying tribute to the master. On "Moanin’," the piece becomes Roberts’ property as his gutsy, hard-charging tenor takes posession.
"When I Fall in Love" has Mullins building to an emotional crescendo in the end, while Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" echoes this depth of feeling.
The standards are great, but, Mullins really shines with his originals, ranging from the boppish "Bp Major Etude" to the impish homage, "Monk’s Ghost," replete with quotes from "Blue Monk," including a dissonant "plink" here and there. Roberts finishes with some rollicking choruses.
Unexpectedly, Mullins also has fun with a Beethoven classic, giving us a sprightly take on "Fur Elise."
Illustrating his range, Mullins comes up with the Calypso-flavored "Island Girls," punctuated by Roberts’ staccato bursts, buoying the rhythm sections which cuts loose here.
The closer, "J.R.’s Blues," turns out to again be a showcase for Roberts, who takes us to the wood shack for a dose of some earthy down-home blowing. Beethoven to the blues-lots of variety on this album.