This is one of the best organ dates of the year. Heid's combination of the groove and the intellect keep you enlisted all the way. He's from the Larry Young continuum, and his tunes-all originals-are just far enough off the beaten path to offer surprise and delight at the players' improvisational ingenuity. On another level, even Heid's comping is interesting.
In addition to the Hammond B3 veteran, the musicians include tenor saxophonist Scott "E Dog" Petersen, trumpeter and flugelhornist Joe Magnarelli and drummer Randy Gelespie, with conga drummer George Jones and percussionist George Heid (the leader's brother) added on a track or two. Peterson sounds as if he'd be good help on a blues gig as well as on this jazz session. He has certain eclectic tone qualities and diverse ways of phrasing that reveal soulfulness and searching. Magnarelli uses the hard-bop trumpet vocabulary in an ageless, exciting way. His flugelhorn on "Blues for Margie" is warm and full of nuances.
"Soldiering On" opens the album in a bouncy groove. Heid's solo contains angular turns and rifling, sometimes swirling phrases. The title track builds on a loping blues feeling. The uptempo "Good Clean Fun" hints at "Cherokee" harmonically. "Spirit of Newark" is an obvious tribute to Young, with the horns brash and reminiscent of Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw (both of whom recorded with the late organist).
It seems that we must always deal with the retro question when names from the past, such as Young, Henderson and Shaw, are referenced. Are Heid and company selling reproductions of the Blue Note heyday? No, this is not what I feel here; instead, they've tapped into an established vein that's rich enough to support long-term discovery and new development.