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Ned Otter: The Secrets Inside

Recorded at New York City’s St. Peter’s Church, tenor saxophonist Ned Otter’s The Secrets Inside (Two and Four) features the George Coleman protege’s virile tenor and 11 of his well-conceived arrangements for an excellent nine-piece ensemble that boasts, among others, baritonist Gary Smulyan, trumpeter Jim Rotondi and veteran pianist Harold Mabern. The mainstream modern program includes several of Otter’s own compositions (among them, a three-part contrasting blues suite) plus some standards. The solos are all straightahead, and Otter receives the most opportunities, with Mabern next in line. But the others all get a chance, too-the minor blues “Nothin’ but the Blues, Part III” features everyone on a spirited round robin. The uptempo “Route 66” gives the four saxes, including altoist Zaid Nasser and tenorist Adam Brenner, a chance to trade fours with drummer Mark Taylor. And bassist Jamil Nasser gets solo spots of his own on several tracks. A minor quibble, perhaps: Although the setting and recording technique provide a desirable “live” atmosphere, that at times comes at the expense of instrumental balance.

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