Danish-born, New Orleans transplant Christian Winther likes to swing and gets the rhythm and mood going on “New York Strut,” the opening track on The Only Plan, It is one of five compositions from the saxophonist’s clever pen on this his sophomore release on the SteepleChase label. For the project, the leader put together a group of highly compatible musicians with whom he’s shared bandstands including New Orleanian, bassist Neal Caine, pianist Richard Doron Johnson and from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, trumpeter Marcus Printup and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. (Taking advantage of the Wynton Marsalis being in town with the J@LCO, Winther’s April 19 performance at Snug Harbor will boast Printup, Jackson and Johnson.)
While swinging is often at the forefront of the album, a refreshing element is the ease of Winther’s moves both to more free ranging realms and while he glances back to the music’s tradition. The imaginative bassist Caine lays the foundation for the often stark, searching “Bright Light” on which Winther takes advantage of the open territory. It stands in sharp contrast to the lightness of another new Winther tune, the New Orleans-inspired “High Ground” that is introduced with stride piano. John Coltrane’s uplifting “Dahomey Dance,” wonderfully rounds out the inspiring program with Winther’s tenor flowing with a cascade of notes and Printup’s trumpet bringing it on home.