May 1999

Justin Robinson
The Challenge
Arabesque Recordings

Just 31, alto saxophonist Justin Robinson wields a hefty portfolio: joined Harper Brothers at 18, debuted on Verve at 22, a decade's-worth of star sideman gigs. All of that hang-time pays off with his new recording The Challenge. Penning six of the compositions, selecting an inspired posse of young ringers (Ron Blake, tenor sax; Stephen Scott, piano; Dwayne Burno, bass; Dion Parsons, drums), producing the whole shebang, The Challenge is Robinson's show all the way.

And quite a showcase it is. Though a few tunes like "Cognitive Activity" and "A Little Sweeter" drink deeply from the indigo rivers of his idols Jackie Mac and Monk, the majority of the CD's 10 tracks reveal a mature player with his own sound. Whether breezlyfreestyling fresh slants on the melody of "It Ain't Necessarily So" ("The Apocalypse") or bluesing a highland fling with Blake ("Adnil"), Justin Robinson steelo is stone immaculate. The Challenge is all there in the hearing.

Originally published in May 1999
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