The band is a nice combination of Benedict, Joe Locke on vibes, Sharel Cassity on saxophones, Bruce Barth on piano, and Mike Lawrence on bass. Arrangements for the all-McFarland program are by Benedict, Barth and Kerry McFarland. They sound right.
McFarland died suddenly in 1971 at aged 38. But by then he had amassed a sizable legacy of compositions. The eleven numbers performed by the quintet here remind us of the substantial excellence of his music. His death was indeed a true loss.
Barth, Lawrence and Benedict have been playing together as a trio for a long while. Their closeness and empathy lay the foundations for some strong jazz. The addition of Locke and Cassity, both very accomplished musicians, complete the picture. All the front-liners are by now very much into their own thing and showcase the McFarland repertoire with a contemporary post-bop immediacy. The rhythm team puts a very solid foundation underneath it all.
The album is a real treat, a surprise to me because I had no special expectations at the first listening stage, yet it all jumped out and grabbed me straight off.
It is very first-rate music all the way. The McFarland compositions come to life again with a real presence, and the improvising & swinging manage to give the whole session living, breathing relevance and a contemporary timelessness.
This one is a winner!