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Ned Otter: Powder Keg

There are few surprises on this stellar straightahead outing by tenor saxophonist and George Coleman protege Ned Otter, just a strong commitment to swinging and playing through the changes with confidence and aplomb. That task is made easier by the presence of a regal rhythm section consisting of veterans Harold Mabern on piano, Dennis Irwin on bass and the late Billy Higgins on drums (in one of his final recording dates).

While Otter doesn’t play with the blowtorch intensity of his mentor Coleman, he does possess a big, robust tone and can skillfully navigate his way through a myriad of changes with fluidity and verve even at blazing tempos, as on the exciting title track, one of Wayne Shorter’s lesser-known gems. And he has a particularly nice way with ballads, blowing with lush tones and a soulful, unhurried quality that belies his age, as he demonstrates so beautifully on Johnny Richards’ “A Gentle Breeze” and Nat Cole’s “I Get Sentimental Over Nothing.”

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