Oasis is the third time around for bassist Rodney Whitaker and music written by fellow Michigander Gregg Hill, following Common Ground (Origin 82780) and Outrospection (Origin 82819). Personnel is the same as on Common Ground (Terell Stafford, trumpet; Tim Warfield, saxophone; Bruce Barth, piano; Dana Hall, drums; Rockelle Fortin, vocals) with Hall and Fortin returning from Outrospection (on which Fortin is listed as Rockelle Whitaker).
Hill's compositions are for the most part firmly grounded in customary post-bop parlance, the exceptions being three of the four numbers on which Fortin/Whitaker sings: "Interlude," "To the Well" and "Oasis," which lean more toward esoteric. Fortin is credited with writing the lyrics, which basically follow suit. Elsewhere, this is pretty much a standard quintet studio date, well-played by Whitaker and his talented teammates.
Fortin also sings on the curtain-raiser, "Betty's Tune," but that is a straight-ahead burner with heated solos by Stafford, Warfield (on soprano sax), Barth and Hall. Warfield plays tenor on "Minorabilia," "Sunday Afternoon," "S'Cool Days" and Whitaker's lone composition, the upbeat "Blues for Gregg," soprano the rest of the way. Hill's themes are respectable, though the guess here is that none is destined to become a jazz standard. Perhaps the best among them are the melodious "Jazzdiddy Waltz," groovy "Fan O Gram" and breezy "S'Cool Days," which grab the listener's ear early on and hold it to the end, thanks for the most part to catchy tunes and admirable blowing by all hands.
Whitaker solos smartly on "Fan O Gram," as he does on "Puppets," "Minorabilia, "Sunday Afternoon," "S'Cool Days," "Blues for Gregg," "To the Well" and "Oasis." As for the others, they are seasoned musicians who do whatever is asked of them, and do it well. Solos, albeit less than exceptional, are nonetheless skillful, while the group performs well as a unit. In other words, there's an abundance of refreshing music at this Oasis, and it is well worth pausing to drink it in.