Multi-instrumentalist Miles Donahue certainly packs it in when it comes to recording. In 2003, he was inspired enough by the classic American songbook to release a set of four albums which he called Standards: Volumes I-IV. This time around he is more circumspect, releasing just two CDs simultaneously.
Donahue is no doubt a man of ideas. He writes with his focus on the mainstream, but he keeps his compositions diverse, a move that makes his work interesting. He adds further twists of flavour with the different line-ups he uses.
Bounce lives up to its name most of the way with "Rhap being one of the better representatives of the rhythm. Joey Calderazzo sets the flex, his piano lithe as he creates a welter of becoming patterns. Donahue is a robust player but he leaves enough room to manipulate and shape a melody. Evidence is seen on his flighty solo on the tenor saxophone with some interesting turns of phrase.
The title tune is a winner, casting a spell right from the first note. The melody evolves seamlessly on a Latin mood, but even as it is in sum a collective effort, the elongated phrasing of Donahue, the sparkling inventiveness of guitarist Norm Zocher and percussionist Pedro Ito enhance the framework. There are quiet spells too, best exemplified by "On The Street Where You Live. Donahue plays with warmth, his focus strongly on the melody, but he does build an interesting enough edifice on his improvisatory journey to complete the lure.
In the Pocket
There is a completely different line-up on In The Pocket, and one which better serves the music. There's a different dimension and evolution on this consistently strong disc. One of the happiest outings jumps out when the band go "All The Way. Donahue takes the oldie and spins a catchy web, keeping the pulse ticking with agile invention. Be-bop is the call for "In The Pocket. Donahue is adept on the alto saxophone but the star turn belongs to Kurt Rosenwinkle. He plays the guitar with a marvellous sense of understanding and foresight, in a sequence of eloquent lyricism. Fred Hersch lends the palette to "Kelneka, painting gorgeous hues on the piano. This is most certainly a captivating tune. But leave it to Donahue to get into the angular, as he moves into a darker direction and lends added character to the tune.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Bounce; Uppy; Alone By Myself; Close To You; Rhap; Watch Where You're Going; On the Street Where You Live; Stabilize; Ditchdigger; Beautiful Dove.
Personnel: Miles Donahue: saxophone, flugelhorn; Adam Nussbaum: drums; Joey Calderazzo: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Jim Lattini: drums; John Patitucci: bass; Norm Zocher: guitar; Pedro Ito: percussion; Ernie Sola: bass clarinet, alto saxophone.
In The Pocket
Tracks: In The Pocket; Kelneka; McEljim; $ D's And A G; Emma's Song; Lights Out; All The Way; A Sometime Thing; Waitin' For The Ice Cream Man; In The Pocket; Emma's Song (reprise).
Personnel: Miles Donahue: tenor saxophone, trumpet, keyboards; Jamey Haddad: drums; Fred Hersch: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Jerry Bergonzi: tenor sax; Ricardo Monzon: percussion; Kurt Rosenwinkle: guitar (1, 3, 6, 9); Dan Greenspan: bass (1, 9); John Paul: guitar (4).