Saxophonist Dave Tofani is one of those jazz musicians that you have heard a thousand times without even knowing it. He is a first call studio musician, and but one of the ways he is recognized is that he has won the Most Valuable Player award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences not once, but three times, besides being nominated on five woodwind instruments: soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute and clarinet.
Nights At The Inn, Tofani's second album as a leader (An American Garden (Solowinds, 2002) was his first), again fulfills his stated desire to develop his own voice, despite how successful he might be in the studio. Taking the group that has been playing a long run at the famed Deer Head Inn in the Pocanos of Pennsylvania, Tofani has put together a very nice set with something for everyone.
Tofani's sound on tenor is nothing short of amazing, as he floats effortlessly in its upper registers. He is in complete control and never presses, while he literally sings musical sentences that fall logically on the ears.
While the album is primarily a vehicle for Tofani, every soloist sounds better with sympathetic support. Pianist Jesse Green shines when he comps, as he provides the perfect accents and counter phrases behind the leader, besides taking full advantage of his solo opportunities. The rhythm section of bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Ronnie Zito (with Steve LaSpina subbing on two tracks) is completely in-the-pocket and swings with ease.
The three Tofani originals ("Brushes On The Snare," "You Caught Me" and "Trip To Madrid") are ear-catching and full of energy, using engaging arrangements that provide variety.
The ballads ("A Child Is Born," "In A Sentimental Mood" and "I Hear A Rhapsody") are the meat of the record and where the men get separated from the boys. On these tunes, Tofani shows that he could make an entire audience fall in love again. Technical ability alone cannot disguise real musical communication, and Dave Tofani shows how it is done.
These tunes make Nights At The Inn more than just another mainstream release.
Track Listing: Angelica; Brushes on the Snare; A Child Is Born; You Caught Me; In a Sentimental Mood; Trip to Madrid; All the Things You Are; I Hear a Rhapsody; What Is This Thing Called Love; Violets for Your Furs.
Personnel: Dave Tofani: tenor saxophone; Jesse Green: piano; Evan Gregor: bass; Ronnie Zito drums; Steve LaSpina: bass (2, 8); Jack Wilkins: guitar (4, 6).