Patrick Cornelius: Maybe Steps

On this follow-up to 2010’s Fierce, San Antonio native and current New York resident Patrick Cornelius blows his alto with authority while receiving crackling support from a stellar crew including bassist Peter Slavov, pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Kendrick Scott. They come out charging on the opener, “Christmas Gift,” which features some particularly bold alto work from the leader, a potent solo from Clayton and explosive, muscular drumming throughout. Their take on the title track, which had a more wistful, fragile quality as a trio rendering on Fierce, sounds jaunty and confident here, due in part to Clayton’s buoyant comping and elegant, Erroll Garner-ish solo. “Bella’s Dreaming,” written for the leader’s then-three-month-old daughter, is a peaceful lullaby that slowly builds to an intense peak when baby wakes up crying. The gentle waltz “Brother Gabriel” shows the composer’s sensitive side, while “Shiver Song” is a frantic romp through the harmonic contour of Erik Satie’s “Piece Froides #2.”

Guitarist Miles Okazaki makes a guest appearance on two lyrical offerings, “Into the Stars” and “Echoes of Summer,” providing the composer-leader with a tastefully melodic collaborator on the frontline. The two also engage in some fiery exchanges at the outset of a burning rendition of George Shearing’s “Conception,” allowing the guitarist to flaunt his considerable bebop chops. And for a change of pace, Cornelius and Clayton unite for an intimate alto-piano duet on Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.”