As an aggressive, trailblazing alto saxophonist and esteemed educator, Bunky Green has an ardent following but little recognition among the general public. But as this magnificent album shows, Green’s decades on the fringes have diminished none of his concentrated potency. In producing the session, Green’s first in 17 years, sax disciple Steve Coleman has done a brilliant job of capturing the immediacy of Green’s statements and the electric interplay of his quartet. The makeup of the band is ideal; pianist Jason Moran in particular shares Green’s remarkable ability to dig into the core of a tune even while blasting beyond its boundaries in a sort of gutbucket abstraction. Bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Nasheet Waits show tremendous range and dynamic control, shaping the space of each tune to highlight Green’s urgent, chattering solos and relaxed, soulful interludes.
Time and again the group surges forward from a position of thoughtful repose to one of intense activity. Green’s soaring high notes and densely tangled soliloquies seem to pull toward some dangerous precipice, only to glide back into pleasingly lyrical bop melodies. It almost gets to be too much in Green’s tune “Be,” where the sound is so steadily pounding and busy that listener fatigue may set in. But three other eloquently stated originals, plus a rhapsodic reinterpretation of “It Could Happen to You” and a gorgeously bittersweet “Soul Eyes,” all make the case that Green remains one of the most striking and engaging players on the scene, deserving of the stardom that has thus far eluded him.