Following up his acclaimed 2016 release, Groundwork, drummer Willie Jones III offers a hard-swinging set shot through with celebratory, life-affirming brilliance. His intro on the opener, “Manhattan Melodies,” sets the tone: playful, expansive, forward-thrusting. Eric Reed’s piano solo likewise sprints gleefully, goaded and harried by bassist Buster Williams’ relentless drive. Saxophonist Ralph Moore’s lines sometimes betray a paucity of rhythmic imagination, but within these confines they swoop, dip and soar. The title tune has a modal feel and surging impetus—a reference point might be Charles Tolliver’s “On the Nile.” Here, the linearity of Eddie Henderson’s phrasing and the rich, rounded tone he summons when using his mute hark back to prebop trumpeters.
“The Wind of an Immortal Soul” starts with a meditative solo from Reed, then powers up into a jubilant swing. (Perhaps echoing Art Blakey, Jones likes to swing ballads as well as burners.) Reed’s attack is forceful yet nuanced; each note defines itself in space, punctuating the rhythmic themes stated by Jones and Williams. “Blues for Dat Taz,” with its shades of Coltrane’s “Blues Minor,” finds Reed firing off densely wound flurries, precisely conceived yet almost tumultuous in feel. Henderson, unmuted and with that effulgent tone to the fore, manifests a Clifford Brown-like mix of precision and dexterity. Moore, a bit darker in timbre and mood, negotiates lower regions, prodding and burrowing to unearth his gems. In his solo, as always, Jones both invokes and celebrates the creative tension between fury and logic.