Steve Davis: Eloquence & Jam Session, Vol. 28
If today's jazz mainstream is anchored in bebop and hard bop, trombonist Steve Davis has superb credentials, from tenures with the final sextets of Art Blakey and Jackie McLean, plus Chick Corea's Origin and One for All, a sextet that carries on in the hard-swinging hard bop tradition. But unlike many of his trombone contemporariesboth older and youngerthe 42-year-old Davis hasn't been pushing the sonic or technical frontiers on his instrument, seeming more concerned with developing a fully rounded, creative personal voice within mainstream parameters. On neither of these albums will you hear Davis imitating a trumpet, employing tricky harmonics or even 'vocalizing' with the help of mutes. Insteadand this is one of the most refreshing things about and greatest strengths of Davishe fully understands that the trombone is a bass clef instrument and keeps to exploring and utilizing the natural range more than most of his peers.
Eloquence, Davis' latest album, finds him in the company of jazz' reigning piano patriarch Hank Jones and the two mesh like velvet and suede. The plush, breathy yet burnished tone of the trombone is particularly eloquent on Kurt Weill's "My Ship," the CD's slowest ballad and one of three tracks with the quartet of Davis, Jones, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth (of One for All). The three other quartet tracks supplant Reeves with producer John Lee's electric bass, including a rocking romp through Wes Montgomery's "Road Song." Roy Hargrove and Steve Nelson add brass and vibes respectively to three tracks, including an original blues with noticeable surprises in all solos, especially Jones,' and mellow interplay between Davis and Hargrove (on flugelhorn) on "It Could Happen to You." Nelson sticks around for two more tracks, including a memorable "Django," both stately and soulful from all (Jones digs really deep), but rendered truly unforgettable with strokes from Farnsworth's impeccable brushes. Fittingly, the album ends with two salutes to JJ Johnson, the father of modern mainstream jazz trombone.
The SteepleChase label's Jam Sessions series are more organized than the title would imply. Vol. 28 is overseen by pianist Andy LaVerne and this December 2000 session features three of his originals, plus a ballad medley, a Jerome Kern standard and a Freddie Hubbard hard bop tune. Unfortunately, on most tracks, solos of the two trombonists, Davis and Conrad Herwig, are separated by choruses by LaVerne and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, so we have to wait until track 6, "Jamboree," to experience their contrasting styles in tandem. On that tune they trade down solos from choruses to fours, ending in poly-soloing tandem, but their voices are always distinctly their own. Davis' breathier, warmer approach and penchant for lower registers is a reciprocal foil for Herwig's clarion tone, skirls and swoops into the stratosphere. The whole session is a rare chance to hear two top trombonists soloing at length in intimate confines.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Yardbird Suite; How Deep Is the Ocean?; Minor Contention; T.H.E. Blues; It Could Happen to You; My Ship; Have You Met Miss Jones?; Django; Road Song; Peedlum; Lament; When the Saints Go Marching In.
Personnel: Steve Davis: trombone; Hank Jones: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums; Roy Hargrove: trumpet or flugelhorn (3 tracks); Steve Nelson: vibes (5 tracks); John Lee: electric bass (3 tracks).
Jam Session Vol. 28
Tracks: Why Do I Love You?; Help Is On the Way; Skylark; Come Rain or Come Shine; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Jamboree; Two and One; Birdlike.
Personnel: Steve Davis: Conrad Herwig: trombones; Rich Perry: tenor sax; Andy LaVerne: piano; Steve LaSpina: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.