This is a solid, straight-ahead session with a mix of younger and older players. Jimmy Cobb, over 50 years ago a member of the most successful Miles Davis group ever, is the godfather. He composed one of the eight originals making up the album. "Composition 101" nostalgically recalls his days with Miles. Steve Haines wrote the other seven tunes, and they usually have a more contemporary vibe.
Haines begins with "The Freightrain," not the one I would have chosen for a favorable first impression. It honors the group's regular drummer Thomas "Freightrain" Taylor. I guess the thought was to kick things off with a hard-driving tune to snap listeners to attention. But the main line, as if imitating said train, begins with a long phrase repeated 19 times by a tenor/soprano duo, often with little change other than harmonic. It's grating, in spite of the changes, and uncharacteristic since the other Haines originals demonstrate versatility and a flair for melody.
The good-natured boogaloo (think "Watermelon Man") "Stickadiboom" quickly rights the compositional ship. Not unexpectedly, Cobb's sticks get the intro, tenor and trumpet introduce the melody and then all five musicians take good advantage of their solo space before return of the mainline. Cobb's solo closes out what he began.
"Rendezvous" is as romantic as the name implies, though light heartedly so. The lilting, descending phrases of the second half of the melody are especially attractive. David Lown solos first. He has the assertive presence and lightly-used vibrato so often favored today. Rob Smith has a lusher tone, but the two blend nicely.
Hard driving returns, this time more successfully, with "Sutak 9-1-1." Smith takes perhaps his strongest solo and Cobb shows that he retains his chops.
Things turn beautifully melancholy with "Patience," a very slow ballad. Then the pace picks up to a promenade on "Prospect Park." The tune and arrangement remind me of the urbane Benny Carter. Haines, though the leader, remains in the background on most tracks. He has a short solo here and then stretches out on the moody "Re:Frayne." He's an exceptional bass player whether soloing or planting a sturdy harmonic and rhythmic base.
Like Haines, Chip Crawford provides mostly support, but has no trouble proving he can do more when called upon. His tastiest solo is on the Cobb tune that closes out the session with the explicit nod to Miles and the incomparable Kind of Blue quintet.
Some fine tunes, good arrangements, strong soloists. Well worth a listen.