Although he is better known for fusion and pop sessions, pianist Bobby Lyle is a competent instrumentalist on mainstream and bebop fare. He handles the melodies well and improvises effectively throughout this '85 set. While he will never be McCoy Tyner or Herbie Hancock, Lyle demonstrates a more varied approach and harmonic creativity than on any of his more commercial dates. But this date's instrumental star is bassist Stanley Clarke; whether it is his rippling accompaniment or his full, huge solos, Clarke justifies his reputation.
On this CD, Bobby Lyle's acoustic piano is featured with strings, with several different rhythm sections, backing two throwaway vocals, unaccompanied on "It Never Entered My Mind" and "Fly Away Spirit," and even jamming during a straightahead "Blues for Dexter" with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. During practically every piece, Lyle spends part of the time seemingly attempting to overcome his surroundings. If he would drop the heavy baggage (especially the strings, the unnecessary singers and the dull drumming), Lyle could create some significant jazz. As it is, The Journey is much better than expected and fairly enjoyable.
Calvin Massey (1928-1972) is virtually unknown with the exception of both highly knowledgeable jazz scholars and a small coterie of illustrious musicians who remain alive and were immensely indebted to Massey s musical influence and mentorship. Massey was a father figure and close friend to many of the greatest jazz musicians of the post-World War era until his early death in 1972. Massey was a trumpeter, but was most noted as a composer of magisterial works, of which his epic opus was The Black Liberation Movement Suite, an extended work of nine movements. Until now, the work had never been recorded in its entirety. Cal Massey ranked among the greatest jazz composers of the 20th century, included with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra.