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The Leaders: Spirits Alike

When the Leaders first emerged in the mid-1980s, the all-star sextet was hailed for its success in blending free-jazz inventiveness into a more mainstream framework. This new version of the band may not lean as far outside as the original (which included Arthur Blythe, Lester Bowie, Kirk Lightsey and Famoudou Don Moye), but it is no less worthy of the name. Returning members Chico Freeman and Cecil McBee wrote most of the disc’s material, sticking mainly to open-ended writing in a swinging postbop vibe. Freeman is solid on tenor sax, but his best points are scored on soprano: He slides sneakily through the shuffling title track and turns the late-night scene of “Lady Bugg” a deep shade of blue.

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