Dillard carries something of Coltrane’s spirituality in his moods and feel. His improvisations aren’t so much narrative as they are quests; there’s something in them that suggests a search. The one word most frequently used to describe his style is “mature.”
Dillard’s approach to his instrument — he also, like Najee, plays soprano — is a product of both new- and old-school musical training. In an age when more and more jazz musicians are turned out whole by music academies and formal training, Dillard received something other than a conservatory education, gaining a working knowledge in high-school band classes and small college workshops. Much of his specialized training came on the bandstand after moving to New York City, where he’s been a sideman for a Who’s Who of band leaders. The streets served as rehearsal space.