Trumpeter Orbert Davis may have let the cat out of the bag with Priority,
an album that is almost sure to blow his cover as one of the Chicago area"s best-kept secrets.
Davis, who has recorded before with strings and voices and as a member of William Russo's Chicago Jazz Ensemble, unleashes the full arsenal on this spectacular studio date, showcasing his prodigious talents as player, composer and arranger in a colorful program of small"group Jazz that is at once insistently modern and solidly anchored in time-honored traditions. A fluent improviser with a gorgeous sound who is blessed with the power and precision of a lead playerwhich he often isDavis reminds this reviewer most of Dizzy Gillespie's masterful protoge, Jon Faddis. Like Faddis, he's a bopper at heart, a fondness underscored by his irrepressibly swinging charts, which deftly combine rhythmic intensity and harmonic sophistication.
Lyrically, there"s a touch of Clifford Brown / Lee Morgan in his phrasing, and a lot of Kenny Dorham / Freddie Hubbard / Fats Navarro, an observation that serves only to give one an idea of where he's coming from, as Davis has persuasive notions of his own. His five compositions"Priority," "Relentless," "Block Party," "Vice Versa," "E.T." (Edwin's Trombone)mirror his personality: warm, outgoing and definitely upbeat. Davis and colleague Mark Ingram co-wrote the vocals, the hip "Double Blues" and bewitching samba "A Night in Bahia," both of which showcase rising star Kurt Elling who duets on "Bahia" with Bobbi Wilsyn.
Also on the appetizing menu are Miles Davis' "Miles Ahead," Wayne Shorter"s "Scourin"," Bill Withers" "Ain"t No Sunshine," pianist Ryan Cohan's laid-back charmer, "Ask Me Nicely," and a "bonus" track, Louis Armstrong's "Weatherbird" (a dazzling tour de force for Davis, accompanied only by Cohan's "barroom piano"). Cohan is a standout in a strong supporting cast that includes tenor Ari Brown, bassists James Cammack or John Whitfield, drummer Ernie Adams, trombonist Tracy Kirk ("E.T.") and violinist Zachary Brock ("Vice-Versa").
Even so, Orbert Davis is the man, and it is his dauntless and aggressive blowing that lends the album much of its import. Those who thrill to the sound of a great trumpeter who readily clears every hurdle and showers sparks in every sector should make acquiring this superb album a Priority.
Personnel: Orbert Davis, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ari Brown, Steve Eisen (10), tenor sax; Tracy Kirk (5), Steve Berry (10), trombone; Ryan Cohan, piano; Pat Ferreri (8), guitars; James Cammack, John Whitfield (7, 9), bass; Ernie Adams, drums; Zachary Brock (10), violin; Kurt Elling (7, 8), Bobbi Wilsyn (8), vocals.