How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Evidence of Mark Elf's high level of musical craftsmanship is encapsulated in his latest offering Dream Steppin'. In a pared down, clean, uncluttered upbeat-sounding trio setting, Elf combines his compositional talents along with his interpretations of standards by Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Richard Rogers to produce 12 individual musical selections. One segment of an alternate take of is also offered in the 59 minutes 39 seconds of music on the CD.
Elf demonstrates great guitar chops as he deftly maneuvers through melodic heads and graceful improvised lines. Of particular note is his sensitive ballad style on his original composition "Ballad 2000" and his unaccompanied soloing on "Have You Met Miss Jones" and the post-9/11 patriotic tribute "America." Sidemen Lewis Nash, and Neal Miner likewise shine not only in their roles as excellent accompanists to Elf's guitar, but also their contributions of tasty and competently performed solos.
A witty side to Elf's musical personality is perhaps evident in his original compositions. Griff's Riff"a blues in Gb, is a tribute to Little Rock, Arkansas radio personality Robert Griffen. "Pregnant Chad Blues," is a tongue and cheek "lament" on Floridian vote counting conflicts in our most recent presidential election. The Latinesque "Oye DNA," offers a nice change of pace and is perhaps a welcome rhythmic and stylistic "aural sorbet" to all the straight ahead swing of the four tunes that precede it on the CD. Elf is also perhaps having some good natured "fun" with the listener and checking to see just how close the listener is discerning his music. "Rhymin' for Simon," written for Key West Florida disc jockey Simon Hendrix, uses basically the same motivic material in the tune's head as "Griff's Riff" albeit at a faster tempo and in a 32 bar form rather than as a 12 bar blues (perhaps Elf was going for a "twofer" to satisfy two different friends).
The recording quality of Dream Steppin' is excellent with good separation and clear, crisp sound from all the instruments. The overall mood of the CD is very upbeat perhaps in spite of, or inspired in response to the events of September 11th. Dream Steppin' would be of particular interest to those listeners interested in great jazz guitar playing, and for the general listener it would be a nice addition to one's jazz CD collection.
Track Listing: Dream Steppin', Too Marvelous For Words, Loved Again, Griff's Riff, Oye DNA, Ballad 2000, Rhymin' for Simon, Blues to the Left, America, Cheek to Cheek, Pregnant Chad Blues, Have You Met Miss Jones, Pregnant Chad Blues (Alt. Take)
Personnel: Mark Elf, Guitar; Neal Miner, Bass; Lewis Nash, Drums