Mark Elf: A Minor Scramble (1997)
Though comfortably laden with familiar pages from the Great American Songbook, A Minor Scramble also shines in its musical variety. In the middle of the well-handled "After You’ve Gone," guitarist Mark Elf leads a sudden but surprisingly fluid transition from a finger-flying set-up to a mellow, swinging conclusion. Adding to the spice of the album is the inclusion of such pieces as the salsad Samba "Tico Tico" and a trio of original tracks. The tempos are also well mixed (or should I say "scrambled"?), with the paced pulse of "Tico" being followed by the lazy (but not lazily played) lullaby "It Was Written In The Stars."
Despite a bit of a stiff and muddy start, Scramble soon begins to flow steadily and smoothly. Though his solid strumming makes "Too Close" crisply comfortable and lends a sprucy focus to "Concentrate," Elf’s clean picking also works well with his fellow Jazz-men and he lets them all shine. Pianist Benny Green’s solo work on "Nobody Else But Me" is as jaunty, quick and clean as Elf’s. The leader's solid strokes make trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Greg Hutchinson’s varied work in "Rain or Shine" comfortable in any weather and establish Alexander’s lead in "The Niche" quite comfortably. That Elf only includes three of his own compositions in this collection further demonstrates his willingness to be one of the band. Still, he is undeniably an important one.
Track Listing: 1. Minor Scramble 2. After You've Gone 3. Tico-Tico 4. It Was Written in the Stars 5. Nobody Else But Me 6. Blues in Fat Tues. 7. Niche 8. Too Close for Comfort 9. Something to Live For 10. I Concentrate on You 11. Come Rain or Come Shine 12. Fine Romance