Relaxing quintet jazz for a quiet night by the fireside. American cuisine is abundant with what are known as “comfort foods”: pot roast, hamburgers, barbecued chicken, apple pie. Dishes that sit well and warm the heart without demanding too much in return from the consumer. Steve Korn’s Seattle ensemble offers up a good-sized helping of what might be termed “comfort jazz” for the same reasons. This set includes two Pat Metheny compositions (one co-written with Ornette Coleman), and it’s clear that Korn has embraced Metheny’s knack for making even avant-leaning music sound reassuring and accessible.
Korn is an appreciably fluid and creative drummer with the good sense to stay out of the way and in the driver’s seat unless the situation calls for flash. His compositions and arrangements are fresh and moving, and he selected his fellow bandmates well. Organist Joe Doria has the weighty task of keeping the bass lines afloat in this bassless quintet while pushing into the forefront now and then. His playing is unobtrusive but important, a welcome addition to the sound. Guitarist Dan Heck and tenor man Rob Davis spend most of their time at the head of the pack. Their personal sounds are complementary and their ideas enervating. Altoist Mark Taylor is only occasionally hindered by a frail and sour tone. For this reason, “Dear Old Stockholm” with Taylor up front may not have been the wisest starting point for the disc. Still in all, he is a more than facile musician and all the performers contribute judiciously to the set.
The handful of cover tunes here are handled admirably, with both restraint and understanding. Joe Lovano’s “Birds Of Springtimes Gone By” moves along with shaking hips thanks to Korn’s tightly controlled Latin accents, and Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” is jaunty and chipper in 5/4. Taylor pays expected homage to Desmond while progressing in his own way. Metheny’s “Change Of Heart” is a vehicle for Heck’s beautifully resonant guitar, and the song holds up quite well outside the overproduced morass that sometimes buries Metheny. “Kathelin Gray”, from Metheny and Coleman’s Song X project, is a lovely, bittersweet cloud upon which Taylor and Davis trade lines gently, like a young couple sharing words of love. Behind the saxophones Korn flits and tinkles almost subliminally. His three original compositions round out the session tastefully, with the steeplechase “Pride And Joy” providing the energetic high-mark. A disc worth hearing, preferably over sole amandine and a dry California white wine.
Personnel: Steve Korn, drums and percussion; Mark Taylor, alto sax; Rob Davis, tenor sax; Dan Heck, guitar; Joe Doria, Hammond organ.