Jazz pianist Ben Neuman's recording debut as a leader is hardly a typical affair, as he doesn't merely focus on showing off his formidable chops or stick to the all-too-typical program of nothing but originals. Instead, his sessions with veterans Dennis Carroll (a fine bassist who has recorded with Lin Halliday, Jodie Christian and Bobby Broom during his decades on the jazz scene) and the potent drummer George Fludas (who has taken part in sessions with Halliday, Clark Terry, Ray Brown and Monty Alexander and Eric Alexander) mix thoughtful arrangements of standards, jazz compositions both familiar and less frequently played, plus his own work. With his choice of John Coltrane's "26-2" as the opener, Neuman signals he is a gutsy player who isn't afraid of challenges, though he his variations on its rapid-fire theme leave plenty of breathing room for his rhythm section. Herbie Hancock's demanding "Riot" is another work that few pianists have gotten around to recording, though Neuman does a lot with it in his rather brief exploration. Fully half of the CD is devoted to standards, including a sly twisting setting of "You And the Night And the Music" and
a free-spirited rendition of the bittersweet "Blame It on My Youth." Neuman's own "M.J.D." is a intense post-bop vehicle that leaves plenty of room for a series of breaks by Fludas. The only disappointment with this CD is the use of fadeouts on some tracks, though it may have been the intention of Ben Neuman to leave the listener wanting more.