Bob DeVos and Don Friedman: Nyack, NY, June 29, 2012
Words that DeVos once used to describe Montgomery applied to his own efforts as well: "The right notes in the right placesnothing extraneous" (Liner notes to his 2007 Savant release, Playing For Keeps). In addition to a guitar and amp, his setup included a padded seat that doubled as a guitar stand. Between sets the instrument was safely strapped to the rear of the unit. It was an apt metaphor for DeVos' style, one in which order, craftsmanship, and balance were always present. In contrast to Friedman's busy, crowded, and mercurial musicianship, DeVos impressed by making every note count, evincing a subtle blues sensibility, and making deeply rooted swing sound effortless. An introduction to "Come Rain or Come Shine" was distinguished by closely knit groupings of chords and single notes, which carefully doled out pieces of the melody. When Friedman and McGuirk entered, DeVos' rendering of the piece was more direct, and made room for the pianist's effusive comments. A solo on Montgomery's "D Natural Blues" was quintessential DeVos. His lines found a zone somewhere between measured and persistent. There was a sense of a payoff ahead and, true to form, DeVos didn't reach for a climax or a catharsis; instead, the sting of his tone and tightened phrasing made a sustained and deeply satisfying impact.
For any jazz musician, regardless of his or her status in the music's pantheon, the course of study never ends and no performance is ever complete or perfect. Even in long, fruitful careers of musicians like DeVos' and Friedman's, the music is a perpetual work in progress. What they brought to the stage for a couple of hours was a lot more than a sum total of their knowledge of Montgomery and Kelly. A combination of a genuine sense of craft, individual proclivities, as well as the commingling of differences and commonalities forged something essential. Moreover, DeVos and Friedman threw their whole selves into the music. This is the stuff of which genuine tributes are made.