Leader Gene Ess plays guitar and synth as he brings together the pastoral team of Thana Alexa/voc, Sebastien Ammann/p, Yosushi Nakamura/b and Clarence Penn/dr to interpret his own rich compositions. Alexa sounds wonderful as she uses her wordless voice away from hubby Antonio Sanchez to give lovely textures to the soft “Sands of Time (Okinawa)” and the bopping “Two Worlds” as well as contributing poetic lyrics to the folksy “Same Sky.” Amman provides pretty flavors to Ess’s acoustic guitar on “Fireflies in the horizon” while Penn adds a funky backbeat to the fun and electric “Tokyo Red.” Fresh as newly picked flowers.
Giving tribute to the legendary drummer Art Blakey’s various bands, conductor Ralph Peterson assembles a fresh young band that includes Blakey alumnus Donald Harrison on alto sax while Peterson plays drums and cornet as well.
The hard hitting big band includes the hard hitting Wayne Shorter piece “Free For All” featuring Harrison here and as well on “Pensativa,” “For Paul” “Uranus” and “New York.” Joanne Brackeen’s underrated “Epyptian Dune Dance” gets a fresh workout and Charles Fambrough’s “Little Man” has rich harmonies, but the selling point all around is the inspired drumming traded off by Julian Pardo, Karol Zabka and jas Kayser. Blakey would have liked this album, as he loved having younger players surrounding him.