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The Canadian pianist and composer Bernie Senensky fits smack dab in the middle of the hard bop tradition. His quintet includes a front line of trumpeter Eddie Henderson and the Canadian saxophonist Kirk McDonald, with a solid rhythm section of Senensky, bassist Neil Swainson, and drummer Jerry Fuller in support. Senensky, who is a seasoned writer with a knack for just slightly off-center melodies, penned all but one of the ten tunes. Henderson, who is in top form, is a good choice on trumpet; his clipped phrases are a constant joy. At times, the award-winning McDonald seems a tad superfluous, although he plays competently on the seven cuts in which he appears, and he adds greatly as a second horn on the heads. Hardly innovative, McDonald's tenor blows with the verve and panache of some of the middle-weight performers from the 1950s. Senensky is a fine bop pianist, though there is not anything about his playing that particularly stands out. He does have lots of speed and a good feel for the music, and he has clearly mastered the idiom. For those looking for a delightful romp through some new tunes in the genre of hard bop in the style of the masters, you could do worse than to try out the Bernie Senensky Quintet.
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