How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
It was bound to happen. Trombonist Steve Davis of Chick Corea's group Origin is releasing his first CD on Chick Corea's label, Stretch. Other Origin artists, past and present, who have signed to the label include Tim Garland, Steve Wilson and Avishai Cohen.
A consummate professional, Davis has been building a resume, and his own discography on Brownstone and Criss Cross, for half a decade now. That doesn't include his work with Jackie McLean, One For All, Freddie Cole, Avishai Cohen, Steve Wilson, Michael Weiss, the Mingus Big Band, the Roy Hargrove Big Band and Mary DiPaola-Davis, who also happens to be Mrs. Steve Davis.
Davis holds the distinction of being the last person Art Blakey hired for the Jazz Messengers. While Davis certainly is an exponent of Blakey's school of hard bop, he also possesses the educational background and versatility to blend into numerous groups, no matter how difficult the meter or how challenging the harmonic lines.
"Portrait In Sound" contains a repertoire of music with personal significance performed by friends from One For All and Origin, with two exceptions: vibraphonist Steve Nelson and pianist Brad Mehldau. Somewhat akin to the textures of Dave Holland's group, the combination of Davis' no-nonsense trombone playing with Nelson's mellowing influence on vibes creates a result that challenges while it reassures.
While Davis' group seamlessly explores Corea's "Shadows" with its combination of meters in five and six, the listener never really knowing when the lopped-off beat will occur, the group also surges ahead with a straight-ahead and invigorating version of "I'm Old Fashioned," Davis' tribute to his mentor, Curtis Fuller. While the group recalls Davis' tune written about the birth of his son, Anthony, with its propulsive anticipation of beats in 6/8, "The Slowdown" incorporates Wilson's alto sax work and Hazeltine's Fender Rhodes to delve into a soulful outpouring of energetic languor.
Using none of the muting of trombonists like Wycliffe Gordon or the histrionics of Ray Anderson, Steve Davis actually is more in the mode of Curtis Fuller, a respected team player and technically astute musician who seemingly effortlessly can heighten the artistic level of any group he joins.
Portrait In Sound, I'm Old Fashioned, Shadows, The Slowdown, Darn That Dream, Runway, Somber Song, A Bundle Of Joy, I Found You, Samba D
Steve Davis, trombone; Steve Wilson, alto sax and alto flute; Steve Nelson, vibes; David Hazeltine, Brad Mehldau, piano; Nat Reeves, Avishai Cohen, bass; Joe Farnsworth, Jeff Ballard, drums