Here's an all-star hard-bop quintet perfectly balanced between the erudite and introspective (tenorist Golson, bassist Ron Carter), the bristling and blues-oriented (pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith) and featuring the superb, albeit inconsistent, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, who is very close to the top of his game. Golson and Hubbard are ex-Jazz Messengers with a proven affinity for trading horn riffs, and they deftly synergize their contrasting styles, especially on the two standards — the opening title track and a hastily-paced “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.”
The two Hubbard tunes far eclipse previous versions, especially “Povo” (first heard on the CTI disc Sky Dive), which clicks from a ululating Carter intro to Smith's funky rhythmic architecture to blistering, ripple-toned extended notes from Hubbard; Smith pours on more beats, and Miller's chords assume funk primacy. Golson sets up an internal dialogue and then starts to stretch as Smith drops in a cowbell and the two horns circle-dance a bit — and we're barely halfway through the 12:13 time length.
Hubbard's slightly out-there closer, “Far Away” (first appearing on Breaking Point from 1964), is an impressionistic gem slightly akin to Herbie Hancock's “Maiden Voyage.” Like “Povo,” the song unfurls a large canvas and makes marvelous use of Carter's stylistic breadth and kinetic flair. Golson's dulcet “Sad to Say” is a welcome and quiet change of pace, far better than the novelty simplicity of “Gypsy Jingle-Jangle.” Recorded in 1987, when Golson and Hubbard had been through a number of career phases, Carter was an eminence and Smith and Miller were burgeoning first-call players, this is salt-and-pepper hard bop with an appetizing blend of muscle and maturity.