31 year old Saxophonist Dan Willis has performed and recorded with some of jazz's finest, which includes Joey Baron, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Lee Konitz, Rob McConnell and many others. Here, Dan steps out on his first solo recording aptly titled the "Dan Willis Quartet."
Willis' opener, "Hankerin'" commences with a sturdy yet vivacious New Orleans style shuffle beat supplied by the fine rhythm section of: bassist, Drew Gress and the explosive drummer, John Hollenbeck. On this piece, the groove runs into overdrive as Willis displays a deep, husky Tenor Sax sound which is enhanced by his clear and concise phrasing. Willis is also a soulful player and boasts a distinctive voice as a well-schooled stylist while Guitarist Ben Monder makes his commanding presence known with a scorching hybrid Jazz-Blues-Rock solo. On "Hankerin'" Drummer John Hollenbeck stretches out with a burning yet well constructed drum solo as Gress' booming Acoustic Bass work holds down the fort in dynamic fashion! Gress and Hollenbeck are a powerful and potent rhythm section as they provide Monder and Willis with all the necessary ammunition through a multi-faceted and well-coordinated approach.
On the mid-tempo swing, "Where The Buffalo Roam", Ben Monder is once again on fire! "Cedar Spring Song" has that Mid-Western feel as Willis' blazing Tenor work proves to be a perfect foil for Monder's equally high-octane guitar as they counterbalance one another with engaging dialogue. "Do You Good", is soulful and bluesy with a Gospel feel. Willis' passionate, animated intonation and delivery is a natural fit for music of this ilk. On "Oddly Enough", memories of Guitarist John Scofield and his Quartet featuring Joe Lovano come to mind. On this track, the mighty rhythm section weave, dart, dance and generally embellish or heighten the intensity. Willis pulls out the stops on the climactic, "Tell Me What You Saw" also featuring some fine crunch chord style, hard-edged Guitar work from Ben Monder. The albums closer, "Home" is characterized by its enchanting melody as the well-stated "grassroots" feel is vibrant yet profoundly affable.
Dan Willis is fine performer-composer and could not have picked a better supporting cast for this project. Once again, kudos go to the folks at A-Records for their ceaseless propensity and desire to record young artists who have something to say within the jazz world. Highly Recommended!
Personnel: Dan Willis; Tenor and Soprano Saxes: Ben Monder; Guitar: Drew Gress; Bass: John Hollenbeck; Drums and Percussion.