This is an interesting album from the bassist composer Al Henderson, seemingly in very good company in the form of Alex Dean [bass clarinet, tenor sax], Pat LaBarbara [tenor & soprano sax, flute], Richard Whiteman [piano] and Barry Romberg [drums].
There is a taut thread of high-quality improvisation supported with excellent interdependence throughout the first three numbers, wherein the stars Dean and LaBarbara give good accounts of their skills. However the funky mood slackens in the number "A Continental Mood" which sounds like a lament from the dolorous flute by LaBarbara, it is a slow paced number with rather an intellectually challenging crisscrossing patterns.
However it is in the sixth track "Ikenge" wherein Pat LaBarbara comes out in full regalia and succeeds in maintaining his superstar status, but Alex Dean often comes to sort of hand-wrestle with him, and together they make a nice pair indeed. This is a funkily rhythmic and bold number -that shines with all the compositional brilliance of Al Henderson.
"J.G." leans more towards the free jazz idiom and pianist Richard Whiteman butts in now and then to offer some sparkling interludes, whilst the track rattles on mainly on the shoulders of Dean [alto sax] and LeBarbara [soprano]. Unusual woodwind pairing has been used to great advantage by Henderson throughout this album with very rewarding results.
"Rue St. Denis" is a lyrical piece with a fetching melody wherein Alex Dean [oboe] and Pat LaBarbara [flute] carry the tune very handsomely throughout. A very haunting tune, with its jazz quotient at the minimal to give a new flavor altogether. "Rue St. Denis" sees Dean on alto and LaBarbara on tenor, with a low-key melodic improvisation lending the track an eerily jazzy quality, brimming over into free jazz genre.
"Don Quixote" has some inspired braying-like bouts of bleating from the oboe, counterbalanced by a sophisticated sounding soprano sax : the track is almost wholly free jazz. No one names a child before it is conceived, but the eleventh track here happens to have a title long before it was conceived / composed. "Relay" was composed in honor of the Canadian Olympics team for relay events. Blues for Basses, the last track, is a laidback number with interesting solos from Dean [bass clarinet] and LaBarbara [soprano sax], an occasional tinkering interlude from the pianist Whitman too.
On the whole a very satisfying album with twelve tracks covering a goodish variety of offerings. Al Henderson’s dream has come true, as his compositions have been played by some of the leading lights of the jazz world. Bravo!