Vincent Herring's modest ego and accessibly lyrical hard-bop saxophone style fosters well-rounded, joyfully capable ensembles. But the quintet he assembled for Mr. Wizard is especially synergistic. Herring and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt enjoy a galvanizing rapport, and they team for some cleverly arrayed, distinctively harmonized head arrangements, most notably during the stop-start rhythms of "Hopscotch" and the thorny time signature of McCoy Tyner's "Four By Five." Pianist Danny Grissett makes a splendid recording debut with bristling solos (reminiscent of Benny Green, Herbie Hancock and, on "Four By Five," Tyner himself) and rigorously keen accompaniment that provides spunk and nuance to the pliable grooves set down by drummer E.J. Strickland and bassist Richie Goods. Furthering the ensemble ethos, the sidemen contribute their own tunes, ranging from Goods 'funky souffle, "Citizen of Zamunda," to Grissett's aforementioned "Hopscotch" and capaciously intriguing "Encounters" to Pelt's float-like-a-butterfly "Cassius" and pensive "The Walk Home." Herring closes the disc with his self-composed title track, a modal burner that provides Mr. Wizard with one last refreshing jolt of mainstream hard bop.
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