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Mark Elf: Liftoff (2006)

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Mark Elf: Liftoff How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Several musicians have found their muse in John Coltrane, and Mark Elf joins the group with Liftoff. The guitarist takes the chord changes to Coltrane's "Countdown to create the title piece. Word play notwithstanding, Elf can turn a tune to his advantage. His notes are crisp, even as they zip along at feverish pace, and that is where his strength lies: there is no clutter, just a story well told. The closing alternate version, taken at a slower pace, is as good in terms of technique.

David Hazeltine, Lewis Nash and Peter Washington were on Elf's previous recording, Glad to be Back (Jen Bay, 2004), and they continue to serve him well. Hazeltine is particularly effective in his solo runs. "How Low Can You Go showcases his skills effectively as he gets the piano to dance around the beat and elevate the melody. Elf makes his mark on the baritone guitar (also known as the six-string bass guitar), using the deep tones of the instrument to impart a bite to a 12-bar blues.

Elf can work in gentler terrain, like the captivating "Fundingsland Waltz. His initial quickness on the fretboard dissolves into a slower pace at the end, which captures the better part of his creativity and finds him turning in a strongly emotional performance. And when the last note rings, Elf leaves you with a pleasant feeling.

Track Listing: Liftoff; Thanks for the Memory; Deception Blues (baritone guitar); Chuys Challenge; Ive Never Been in Love Before; How Low Can You Go; Fundingsland Waltz; Left Hand Corner; Deception Blues (guitar); Liftoff.

Personnel: Mark Elf: guitar; David Hazeltine: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion (4).

Record Label: Jen Bay Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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