Guitarist Mark Elf has been recording since 1986, and on Liftoff
he continues to amaze. All but two of his dozen sessions have been on his own Jen Bay label. Athough Elf usually appears in a guitar/bass/drums format, he also includes piano on a few of these recordings.
Such is the case on Liftoff, where he joins pianist David Hazeltine, drummer Peter Washington, bassist Lewis Nash, and (on one track) percussionist Daniel Sadownick. Over the years, I've heard most of Elf's albums and admired his energy, technique and devotion to bop guitar.
Elf is one of the finest plectrists keeping the influences of bebop guitar alive. His quicksilver fingering harkens back to the work of Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow. The title tune, "Liftoff," is based upon the chord changes of John Coltrane's "Countdown," and Elf treats the composition as a challenge. Similarly, another original composition, "Deception Blues," is also based upon a "Countdown" variation and is so titled because of the chord sequencing. On this tune, as well as "How Low Can You Go," Elf uses a baritone guitar (more popularly known as a six-string bass guitar) which is of his own construction and copyright.
He also has a fine way with standards. He celebrates the Bob Hope theme "Thanks For the Memory" and adds a mid-tempo bounce to "I've Never Been in Love Before." "Chuy's Challenge" is a full-tilt swinger with a Latin touch (thanks to percussionist Daniel Sadownick). On this track the guitar and piano solos are inspiring.
Personnel: Mark Elf: guitar; David Hazeltine: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums; Daniel
Sadownick: percussion (4).