At times, McDuff demonstrates how soul-jazz organ stars used to make albums back in their '60s heyday, playing then-current pop hits like "The Age of Aquarius" and the theme from Mission: Impossible (which, thanks to cinema, was a hit all over again in 1996 when this CD was made). We also hear McDuff trying out his vocal cords for the first time on Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry"; actually, he merely talks the lyrics over the rhythm section – and at 70, he's entitled to this charming lark.
Pianist Jaki Byard's first recording as a leader was not released domestically until this 1988 CD. That fact seems strange for Byard is absolutely brilliant on the solo piano set. Many of his selections (all nine tunes are his originals) look both backwards to pre-bop styles and ahead to the avant-garde including such numbers as "Pete and Thomas (Tribute to the Ticklers)," "Spanish Tinge No. 1," and "One, Two, Five." The most remarkable selection is "Jaki's Blues Next" which has Byard alternating between James P. Johnson-type stride and free form à la Cecil Taylor; at its conclusion he plays both styles at the same time. A highly recommended outing from a very underrated pianist.
The Caribbean Jazz Project has built its reputation by forging a colorful blend of Latin and Caribbean styles. Although the band's lineup has continued to evolve on Birds of a Feather, vibraphonist Dave Samuels, trumpeter Ray Vega, percussionist Robert Quintero, drummer Dafnis Prieto, and bassist Ruben Rodriguez remain from the original incarnation. A number of guests, including trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Romero Lubambo, and drummer Mark Walker help fill out the arrangements. With all of the high profile talent here, it's important to remember that Birds of a Feather worries less over standout solos than the overall tapestry.