Every once in a while an album like this crosses my path: on a small label, with a bunch of people I've never heard of. Generic-sounding song titles. An unassuming cover, neither garishly amateur nor slick. At first glance, completely forgettable. But then I put it in the CD player, and it's immediately gratifying -- both familiar and vibrantly fresh.
Although Sillery plays trumpet and flugelhorn, his primary influence is tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, and Sillery's compositions tend to share Henderson's hard-edged, downtown groove quality. His soloing balances quick, sharp stabs and long, undulating lines in tunes like the uptempo chugger "Minor Change" and the sunny ballad "For Jane." The other major voice here is pianist Jesse Stacken, who delivers rich, plush chords when playing behind other soloists and adds a playful touch in his own breaks.
"Terry's Blues" is a tricky strut that feels like a scene on a busy Manhattan streetcorner, and "Cecil's Bridge" is a fine, Latin-tinged machine that could almost have been lifted off a 1960s Blue Note date. But my favorite track here is probably "Prana," an elegant modern number taken at a languid pace. The tune repeatedly builds and crashes in a slowly tumbling rhythm that sets all five players in a good light.
If this album had been released in the LP era rather than that of the CD, it would have ended after these five tracks, and would have been stronger for it. Instead, the set ends with the somewhat drippy ballad "You Are So Beautiful" (yes, that one), and "Dial D For Dial," a bright tune that somehow feels less than fully developed to me. But Minor Changes still a solid debut effort, ideal for casual listening.