Why release this one first? Prestige's marketing department, which was essentially the same as its creative department--i.e., Bob Weinstock--must have felt that this was a stronger way to introduce a new artist creating a new and edgy kind of music.
New Jazz was becoming, more or less, Prestige's label for the edgier stuff--the new jazz, as it were. And it was happening. Ornette Coleman could no longer be ignored. Coltrane had opened a new door with Giant Steps. Eric Dolphy was on the brink of becoming Prestige's breakout star of the new jazz, and his presence on this album gives it a significance that perhaps Weinstock was afraid would not be so apparent with the other session.
Prestige is definitely telling us something with the album's title. In the wake of Ornette's Something Else!!!!, Tomorrow Is the Question!, The Shape of Jazz to Come and Change of the Century, McIntyre's debut is titled Looking Ahead.
McIntyre himself might not have agreed with the decision. He saw his first session, with the guys he had developed his music with, as a truer representation of his music. And maybe he was right, but maybe he was wrong. I don't want to judge either way. But Weinstock's classic approach--Let's put a bunch of cool cats together and see what develops--produced some exciting music, and it does so here.
All but one of the selections are McIntyre originals. The exception is the old Gershwin chestnut, "They All Laughed," and it's interesting to see how these modernists take it. They play the head remarkably straight, and they never really lose it. They go far enough out in their improvisations to be satisfying--and because they're that good, to be deeply satisfying--but they always have that ha-ha-ha, who's got the last laugh now? feeling. Who says the avant-garde can't have a sense of humor? Walter Bishop's solo brings them back into home territory, and they finish up with Gershwin again.
Looking Ahead and Stone Blues were the only two albums McIntyre would make for Prestige as leader, although he would appear on one other Prestige session backing up a vocalist.
Esmond Edwards produced.