Ford is one of the stars of the unheralded generation who came up in the seventies playing it relatively straight - if you can call playing with the late Charles Mingus playing straight. But because he didn't jump on the fusion or avant guard trains, he and others like him were undeservedly stuck at the uncommercial station. It's too bad. This live disc with the ex-pat saxophonist - he now lives in Paris - recorded in the dead of summer last year while fronting a dream quartet shows what fans who haven't been paying attention have been missing.
His rich tenor still has plenty of the gospel and blues swagger that endeared him to Mingus. But here he mixes it up with more than a bit of Coltrane and, like his contemporary David Murray, pays homage to past greats like Lester Young and Don Byas while not shying away from a contemporary squonk or two. The set - made up entirely of Ford originals - sets off at a frenetic pace with the opening "Pie Crust" and the majority of the tunes push the rhythmic envelope. Shards of sound escape Ford's horn as if he's casting out demons and ideas tumble forth with the impatience of a hyperactive psychic.
The band - three astounding veterans - assert a gentler pace on "Cable Waltz" but in his closing solo, Ford is flying again. The sweet and sour pull between the leader and the sublimely lyrical Cables is wonderful to hear and reminds this listener of the pianist's brief partnership with the altoist Frank Morgan. Welcome also is the well recorded bass great McBee who pops and thrums with elegant gruffness. He and Thigpen form a formidable tandem. With all the emphasis put on the latest twenty-something who picks up a horn, it's a musical whiplash to hear such sweet soul music spill forth so energetically from a group of consummate players. Listening to Ford's full throttle solo intro to "Song for Pres", this disc could have easily been called "Hotter than July."