The Dave Sterner Quintet's debut is neither flashy nor risky, but it is confident and well executed. The group works originals with moderate pleasure, lending adequate heart to a ballad titled "That's All," while framing the disc's most entertaining track, Duke Ellington's jaunty "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," with a nifty conversation between Sterner, an alto saxman, and tenor Chris Burge. As for the rhythm section, it's fine -- particularly pianist Roger Friedman, who animates originals like the funky "Slick Willy" and "JS 4 Fun," a saucy workout that suggests a more aggressive direction Sterner might want to pursue.
Despite the chops, there's not much to remember. The album works its funk and bop foundations, but does nothing to really push the envelope. What's What proves Sterner and his mates can occupy familiar terrain; now it's time to break new ground.
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