David Bixler, alto saxophonist, writer of music, bandleader, steps forward on his The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head (Zoho 201206). It's thoughtful mainstream by a quintet--Bixler, John Hart, guitar, Scott Wendholdt, trumpet, Ugonna Okegwo, bass, and Andy Watson, drums. They wrap themselves in 10 Dixler originals, in the process getting a good group interplay and worthwhile soloing.
Bixler has a Bird-through-McLean-Cannonball-and-Woods feel to his playing without copping licks. And of course that's rare. He gets good wood on the ball, so to speak, throughout. Wendholdt holds his own on trumpet with hip articulation and nice sound. John Hart comps and solos with facility. The rhythm team of Okegwo and Watson come out with solid strutting and get a momentum going in fine fashion.
Hard bop and beyond is where this goes. It's a twist on what's been done before. It avoids the cliches of the genre and showcases some serious players, Bixler at the front of them. Give it an ear.