It has been my utmost pleasure to make the acquaintance and be a part of the initial release to the world of a gentleman who has been around for a while. Raised in Detroit, Michigan Lonza Lester discovered his step dad's trumpet as an eight year old and has been working the trumpet as his instrument ever since. He's applied his tone in the big bands of Jimmy Wilkins and Ed Nucelli and alongside jazz notables Marcus Belgrave and Herbie Williams. His footprints have also been left in the R&B world as he has played in those great Motown bands that backed Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Gladys Knight & The Pips. He came to Los Angeles in 1975 and has been kept busy in a city that is easy to get lost in. Although his background is varied, Lonza's preference is to play the music that is the oldest child of the Blues, Jazz. And he most likes to play it in a small group setting. He formed his first small group in 1982 and hasn't looked back, playing all over Southern California and beyond. This recording is his first release. As I listened to it, it became immediately obvious that Mr. Lester has learned his craft quite well. Playing trumpet and flugelhorn, he leads a basic quintet that swells and constricts depending on the song. The one constant in all the different incarnations is the guitarist, Ronald Muldrow, who is also quite the arranger. In fact, Lonza and Ronald split the arranging of the seven tunes and share in the arrangement of the lead song. Monty Alexander's - Monty's Serenade. It's a delightful study in Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms beautifully executed by percussionist Munyungo, and played wonderfully on the tenor saxophone by Benny Maupin, long a fixture in Southern California. Ronald's guitar work is excellent as it leads to Lonza's creative trumpet solo that really seems to balance the intensity and explain the other side of the tune. The rhythm section plays with a maturity and cohesiveness that is undoubtedly brought about by dedication and practice but also by the settling influence of long time Count Basie Band bassist James Leary as he rhythmically mentors the youngsters pianist Donald Vega, a rising star in his own right, and Lorca Hart who has established himself as a world class drummer and veteran recording artist. Lonza's trumpet plays the role of introducing us to the story that is Cristo Redentor. Performed quite inventively by the Chorale that was arranged by Ronald Muldrow, who also composed the lyrics. Bennie contributes the Bass Clarinet to a harmonious effort that is put forth by all in the band owing to a reverence for the tune. Nat Adderley must be smiling down on the quintets loving treatment of his Old Country done as a ballad and extremely satisfying to listen to. So much so that I have listened to it over and over again. I've always liked Sammy Cahn's writing. His I Should Care is played masterfully. With Bennie laying out, Lonza's flugel horn leads the way, only to give way, to Ronalds guitar. Donald's piano improvisations are a joy to listen to. Throughout the piece, from beginning to end James' bass work supports the effort of each soloist in the most complimentary way. It is so much so, that he doesn't to lend his solo voice it's part of everybody else's. Lorca's steady beat keeps everyone's feet to the proverbial fire rhythmically speaking. Bennie comes back with his tenor saxophone on Lonza's composition About Time. Arranged by Ronald. It struck me as real bluesy hard bop with the trumpet opener after the initial chorus. Then the guitar is showcased for all it's worth. Donald is again allowed to stretch out. And he wastes no notes as he takes full advantage of the opportunity to make the song shine. Portrait In Black And White (Zingaro) is a portrait in guitar and flugel horn interplay. This is the kind of thing that you rarely get to hear performed as a deliberate item for a recording. I applaud Lonza's willingness to be viewed as fearless in that this type of setting leaves no room for error. Lonza and Ronald make it work. The lone vocal track, Touching You shines a spotlight not only on Mary Wilson, who, by the way, does an excellent job, but on the discipline of the band that again has Bennie laying out and brings back Munyungo to add that percussive touch that has ranked him so very high by his peers and by those of us who have watched him over the years. This is a very catchy tune. Hey, it's O.K. to dance. It's a fitting way to close out the session. As a fan of Jazz music and as a Jazz radio programmer this recording is very special in that it represents the continuation of the art form that is Straight Ahead Jazz. It is performed in the spirit of the Miles Davis Quintets, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Horace Silvers aggregations and so on. If you've been listening to this collection you understand. Continue to enjoy. I will. James Janisse, Program Host Radio Station KKJZ 88.1 FM (K-JAZZ) Long Beach, California.