On Dream Steppin’
, Mark Elf’s eighth release for his Jen Bay label, the first thing you notice is the guitarist’s distinctive sound. The tone is full, rounded, and each note rings hard and true. While encompassing the somewhat polite quality of traditional jazz guitar, his sound nonetheless looms large, almost getting in your face without veering off into the sonic territory normally associated with Rock and R & B-influenced music. On the other hand, there’s nothing imprudent about Elf’s playing. Even at fast tempos everything is in its proper place. The neat, thoughtful development of his turns is a pleasant contrast to the legions of plectrists who sacrifice form in favor of facile visceral impact. Although the record mostly features his able original material (“Griff’s Riff,” “Rhymin’ For Simon,” and “Pregnant Chad Blues” are particularly catchy), Elf also displays affection for the melodies of a few standards. For example, while executing Irving Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek,” he evokes the romantic dance of the tune’s lyrics by cleverly integrating single notes and chords.
Excepting two solo guitar cuts (one is an ornate treatment of the patriotic song “America”), Elf works with bassist Neal Miner and drummer Lewis Nash, and overdubs light, skeletal rhythm guitar parts that subtly broaden the trio’s overall sound. Although the impression made by their respective instruments is not as forceful or assertive as the guitarist’s, Miner and Nash are ideal partnersso good, in fact, that it’s difficult to imagine the record without them. The bassist has a nice, full, woody intonation, and interesting things to say as a soloist on “Loved Again,” and “Blues To The Left.” Nash is a master of percussive textures and rhythmic nuance. Without making a big deal of it, he effectively utilizes a stick in one hand and brush in the other during portions of the title track and “Ballad 2000,” and skillfully integrates his bass drum to accent portions of Elf’s statement of the melody on “Loved Again.”
Personnel: Mark Elf--guitar; Neal Miner--bass; Lewis Nash--drums.