Vincent Herring's aptly named Simple Pleasures offers the listener just that. Neither groundbreaking nor overly challenging in its repertory or its execution, this up-dated hard-bop session offers the satisfaction of highly competent performers playing straightforward material at the top of their form. Altoist Herring approaches the music with a soulful, hard-swinging, Cannonball Adderley-derived sensibility that still manages to express his own personality. Trumpeter Wallace Roney complements his aggressiveness with a Milesian reserve that occasionally converts into high tension. The contrast between their styles is especially evident in "There Is No Greater Love," where Herring follows Roney's soaring-above-the-beat solo with a stomping, gusto-filled one of his own. In keeping with the horn players' surefooted excursions, their partner on piano, the superb Mulgrew Miller, develops logical, coherent ideas over long stretches of time, all the while maintaining an irresistible sense of swing.
Five of the nine tracks groove at medium-up to up tempos, anchored by the top-of-the-beat work of drummer E.J. Strickland and bassist Richie Goods. But two tunes, "Once in a Lifetime" and "Holly's Secret," juxtapose slow-moving melodies over a quick triple meter while another is a moving ballad rendition of "Sophisticated Lady." Herring's own Middle Eastern-sounding, floating-time "Sophia Marie" provides one of two showcases for his soprano.