Is tenorman Dave Ellis headed toward easy listening contemporary jazz in the long run? You might think so from the opening and closing originals on this disc, but in between the jury is out and having considerable fun with other material. Turning out textures between crisp and velvety, Ellis makes his case as a master of mainstream with a couple of standards, bops merrily on “Monk’s Dream,” and blows with cool intelligence on “Tootie Rootie,” the tribute written by the pianist in Ellis’ L.A. group (Eric Reed) to the drummer (Albert “Tootie” Heath). Ellis and Reed establish an intelligent dialogue over “Black Narcissus,” and the Northern California teamwork is equally satisfying, particularly between Ellis, flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny, and trombonist Marty Wehner. Several of the non-standard compositions are dully derivative, but Ellis is definitely closer to clearly and distinctively declaring his intent.