Pianist/composer Duke Pearson recorded this wonderful album originally for the ATLANTIC label in 1966 with a collective personnel of Duke Pearson(piano, celeste); Johnny Coles(trumpet); James Spaulding(alto sax, flute); George Coleman(tenor sax); Harold Vick(tenor & soprano sax); Genr Bertoncini(guitar); Bob Cranshaw(bass) & Mickey Roker(drums). Highlights of six impressive tracks are a Joe Henderson blues, 'Soulin'' with fine playing from the almost forgotten tenorist, Harold Vick; 'Little Waltz' featuring tenorist George Coleman & trumpeter Johnny Coles and the beautiful 'Angel Eyes' with superb performances from Pearson and Cranshaw. Despite the short playing time of 35 minutes, the little-known 'Prairie Dog' is an album that deserves to be in every modern jazz collection.
Duke Pearson got together a rather good group of musicians for this disc but then gave them very little to do. The music is relaxed and melodic throughout, as is Duke's own playing but his arrangements seem to be much more important than the solos and frequently get in the way of such solo work as there is. Most of the arrangements, and many of the solos are relaxed almost to the point of being comatose. Duke is one of those unusual players who seem to perform far better as a sideman than as a leader, and far better examples of his work are to be found on Johnny Coles' 'Little Johnny C' and Grant Green's 'Idle Moments'. There are four group pieces and two duos, of which more later. Of the group pieces 'Fakir' features Harold Vick on soprano, not moving far from the theme but playing with power and intent, accompanied by James Spaulding's flute fluttering about him. 'Prairie Dog' is slowish and features Duke in a fairly laid back solo but is ruined by a constantly repeated guitar riff which makes the whole thing sound like a refugee from a 1950's Hollywood cowboy movie. 'Soulin'' is a vehicle for a virile tenor solo from Harold Vick and is probably the best track on the disc. 'Little Waltz' is what it sounds to be and has solos by Gene Bertoncini, George Coleman, Johnny Coles and the leader, all of whom sounding rather diffident. Of the two duo pieces 'Hush-A-Bye' has Duke on celeste with Bob Cranshaw on bass. The whole number sounds like a little girl's musical toy as the ballerina pirouettes. In fairness the sleeve notes indicate that that may well have been the intention, but that doesn't mean it was worth the effort. Finally there is 'Angel Eyes', an attractive version of an attractive standard where Duke returns to piano. Unfortunately I also possess Duke's 'Hush', from half a dozen years earlier and which also has an almost identical version of the tune. All of which makes me wonder if Duke was not more of an arranger than a pianist. So, some pleasant melodic sounds but not much else.