It's always nice to make a new discovery, and in this case, that discovery is alto sax player Matt Criscuolo. His second CD, Lotus Blossom, is a thoughtful and very pretty offering, full of promise for the young player, mixed with great playing from the veterans in the band.
Those veterans include the great Larry Willis on piano, Steve Davis on trombone, Phil Bowler on bass, Eric McPherson on drums, and Ray Mantilla on percussion-and it's always good to hear Ray Mantilla.
The CD starts with a ballad, the title track "Lotus Blossom" by Billy Strayhorn, which sets a nice tone for the rest of the date. Pianist/composer Larry Willis contributes "To Wisdom the Prize," a mid-tempo Latin-tinged affair that nicely blends the sound of the sax and trombone. It also makes me want to get out the bongos.
Criscuolo himself wrote three tunes for the CD, and Steve Davis two. It's very much an entire-group effort, and the playing reflects that. Wayne Shorter is also represented with "The Big Push."
The ballads on the CD are very pretty indeed. The title track as mentioned above, "Everything I Have Is You" by B. Lane, and Criscuolo's "Song for Kerry" all take their time and allow the musicians to really feel the music. We feel it too, and this CD shows promise and maturity from this young New York cat.
By Michael Handler