Saxophonist Easley, with a wealth of jazz, R&B, big band and Broadway pit orchestra experience, shows here why he's in high demand. His alto, his primary horn on the date, is supple, tonally attractive and versatile. On "Nina Never Knew," his scoops and vibrato suggest a modern-day Johnny Hodges. A pair of tunes by Frank Strozier-"Extension" and "Runnin'"-suggests that Easley is also a fan of Strozier's lean, lithe alto. On "I Want to Be Happy," there are fleeting references to Cannonball Adderley.
Easley's sextet includes estimable company: tenor saxophonist George Coleman, trumpeter Bill Mobley, pianist Donald Brown, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Higgins. Carter's "Gypsy," with its evocation of Miles Davis' mid-'60s quintet (of which Carter was a member), is one of the session's most unusual tunes. Easley's "Born Out of Darkness," with a melodic similarity to "All Blues," shares another Miles connection. Coleman, a Davis quintet sideman from '63 to '64, lives up to his status as a master throughout this inspiring session.