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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Mark Elf Returns 2014

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Nothing can stop guitarist Mark Elf from making music. He's battled serious health problems, contended with the ups and downs of the music industry for decades, and, most recently, dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the massive storm that flooded his home, delaying the recording of this record for a year. In spite of all of those setbacks and hardships, Elf still manages to have a fairly sunny musical outlook when he straps on the guitar for this, his first album in eight years. Mark Elf Returns 2014 finds the guitarist swinging alongside an A-list rhythm ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Liftoff

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Guitarist Mark Elf has been recording since 1986, and on Liftoff he continues to amaze. All but two of his dozen sessions have been on his own Jen Bay label. Athough Elf usually appears in a guitar/bass/drums format, he also includes piano on a few of these recordings.

Such is the case on Liftoff, where he joins pianist David Hazeltine, drummer Peter Washington, bassist Lewis Nash, and (on one track) percussionist Daniel Sadownick. Over the years, I've heard most of Elf's albums and admired his energy, technique and devotion to bop guitar.

Elf is one of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Liftoff

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John Coltrane's “Countdown, like Hemingway's “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, is a brief, emotional and enduring classic. Guitarist Mark Elf makes this tune the heart of Liftoff. Elf, who played last month at Flushing Town Hall with bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Quincy Davis, was an exuberant performer who scatted along with his solos on up-tempo tunes, played fluidly on ballads, and was humorous and engaging throughout. The challenging title cut is based on “Countdown, but it also contains discernible elements of its source, Miles Davis' “Tune Up. Elf dives in at top speed, sprinting through the chord ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Liftoff

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Guitarist Mark Elf enjoys the rush of re-interpreting music by masters such as John Coltrane. He also enjoys creating fiery originals that allow him to work out on the instrument the way Trane did. It doesn't matter that one played saxophone and other plays guitar, since both artists share a deep appreciation for the creation of animated magic.

With Liftoff, Elf takes his guitar for a balanced drive that includes both up-tempo romps and sensual ballads. He loves to fill each piece with showers of staccato notes that fly like bullets, however, even the ballads. Elf's technique allows ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Liftoff

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Several musicians have found their muse in John Coltrane, and Mark Elf joins the group with Liftoff. The guitarist takes the chord changes to Coltrane's “Countdown to create the title piece. Word play notwithstanding, Elf can turn a tune to his advantage. His notes are crisp, even as they zip along at feverish pace, and that is where his strength lies: there is no clutter, just a story well told. The closing alternate version, taken at a slower pace, is as good in terms of technique.

David Hazeltine, Lewis Nash and Peter Washington were on Elf's previous recording, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Glad To Be Back

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In light of the serious medical issues that guitarist Mark Elf has overcome recently--he had a kidney disorder and is recovering from prostate cancer--any new CD he puts out is a triumph for him and his many fans. Glad To Be Back , a crisp balance of standards and originals, is Elf's musical affirmation of life. His quartet, featuring the stellar rhythm section of pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, performed at Smoke last month. The opener, “Elfin's Pace," is based on the changes of “Giant Steps," with Elf soloing along the same lines ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mark Elf: Glad to Be Back

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"Sometimes," guitarist Mark Elf writes in the liner notes to Glad to Be Back, “it takes something really serious to make one appreciate life and what the [importance] of good health means." In Elf's case, that “something" was two major surgeries, the first for a kidney disorder in December '02, the second for prostate cancer in June '03.

Elf truly is “glad to be back," and his enthusiasm and gratitude shine through on every note on this delightful album, several of whose tunes are dedicated to physicians and friends whose knowledge and counsel helped him weather the storm and return ...



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