Neal Miner: Sweet Tooth

Bassist-composer Neal Miner provides rock-solid grooves and confident, melodic soloing throughout this set of straightahead originals. Featuring saxophonist Chris Byars, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Strasser, Miner’s group strikes a swinging accord on “Blues Okura,” which has the bassist doubling the head with Byars’ tenor before a bristling exchanging of eights between all the members. “Locke Bop” is a challenging stop-time burner with Byars blazing on alto and Bernstein wailing in fleet-fingered Johnny Smith mode. Miner shows his knack for ballad writing on the gorgeous “Inner Beauty,” and he reveals a relaxed, soulful feel on the bluesy title track, highlighted by a brilliant solo from Bernstein. This effort, Miner’s fourth as a leader, is his best to date.