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Craig Bailey: A New Journey

Now in his late 30s, altoist/flutist Craig Bailey has spent over a decade working with the likes of Jimmy Heath, Ray Charles (four years), Panama Francis, Bobby Watson and Tana/Reid. Yet this well-structured album, recorded in 1995, is his first as a leader. For this special occasion, Bailey employed 15 musicians in a variety of combinations, none larger than seven and one as small as three (a blazing alto/trumpet/drums version of “Cherokee”). With the exception of George Caldwell’s imaginative reharmonization of “Li’l Darlin,” all the arrangements are the work of the leader, who also composed seven of the 11 tunes. Bailey’s keeningly expressive alto sound (complemented by a full, mellow flute tone), prodigious technique and suppleness of ideas are showcased to full advantage in a balanced, mainstream modern program. Although there is more to brag about here than space allows, deserving special mention are the consistently high level contributions of pianist Billy Childs and drummer Kenny Washington and the gorgeous violin solo by Mark Feldman on Bailey’s touching “Love Dreams.”

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