Q (8/94, p.112) - 3 Stars - Good - "...Opening with an explosive, celebratory blues and closing with a movingly introspective statement based on the traditional spiritual `Here's One,' MORNING SONG is an impressive and satisfying testament to his abilities..."
Personnel: John Stubblefield (tenor & soprano saxophone), George Cables (piano), Clint Houston (acoustic bass), Victor Lewis (drums).
Recorded at Systems Two Studio, Brooklyn, New York in May, 1993.
Saxophonist John Stubblefield sounds like a player who has a classic hard bop album inside him somewhere, but that album does not emerge on this set. Morning Star doesn't miss by much, but what it lacks in intensity and unpremeditated passion is enough for it to fall short of the mark.
Despite his talent and versatility, Stubblefield never quite gets ignited on this 1993 release. Even his overblowing on Victor Lewis's "The Shaw of Newark" is oddly dispassionate. A more feral honk would have done nicely here. Generally, what's missing are the risk-taking and idiosyncrasies that distinguish the work of players such as Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano.
While Morning Song doesn't fully deliver on the saxophonist's promising intentions, it still does many things well. The leader's writing, for one, is solid and provides worthy structures for exploration by the leader and his very good rhythm section. That rhythm section is, actually, this session's best feature. Pianist George Cables, drummer Victor Lewis and bassist Clint Houston share a creative intuition that lets the rhythm fabric breathe deeply and clearly. Their collective skill is the ability to avoid filling in all the spaces with playing. While Stubblefield works effectively with the trio, there may have been a shortage of rehearsal time. This suspicion arises because of the fade-out endings on three numbers. Truncating these tracks may have been the best option if the performances were not yet in a state to resolve naturally. ~ Jim Todd