Donald Harrison plays quite well throughout this set, displaying a distinctive tone and a consistently creative style within the genre of straight-ahead jazz. All but the last two selections feature him accompanied by bassist Vicente Archer and drummer John Lamkin, both of whom stay very much in the background, often playing repetitive and somewhat dull figures. Pianist Glenn Patscha is on three numbers without making an impression, while the final two songs have Harrison joined by Ron Carter and Billy Cobham.
Frode Berg plays six-string electric and acoustic bass with zeal on Dig It! (Nagel-Heyer). Tenor saxophonist Petter Wettre sounds somewhat bland and regressive on the band’s rendition of “Giant Steps” but is quite spirited and exuberant on “41b” and “Hocum,” both penned by group pianist Roy Powell. Wettre is even more energized on Berg’s “Sir Nuke” and “I’m Gone.” The Norwegian quartet nicely handles bossa nova on “Another Song,” one of five Berg compositions on the CD. Berg’s unit sounds loose and relaxed on almost every cut-the Coltrane anthem excepted.
Too often, CDs that are mostly originals offer more preening than melody. This isn't the case with The Soccerball, a delightful collection that is 76.9-percent original and 100-percent interesting. Bill Mays, Martin Wind, and Matt Wilson have recorded together before, notably on Out in PA, another fine showcase for the trio's compositional talents. Here Peter Weniger brings his soulful, funky, tenor voice to their explorations, which sometimes involve tinkering with familiar themes: the joyous title tune is loosely based on the chord progressions of Nat Adderley's "Work Song," while Weniger's "Garrigue" is an inversion on the changes of "What Is This Thing Called Love?"