Who says universities create an ivory tower mentality? Educator and vibes master Steve Hobbs has put out a delectably enjoyable CD of accessible, yet thought-provoking music. Employing a front line of Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Dave Valentin (flute), and Bob Malach (tenor), his lighter than air thematic statements serve as a perfect foil to the percussive underpinnings of Hobbs and pianist Bill O'Connell.
All of Hobbs' compositions are catchy, memorable, and thoroughly enjoyable. The modal "Blued Swings," with its sophisticated interplay between Valentin and Harrell, is breezy. The lithe and lively melody line of "Spring Cycle" will stay in your mind long after the CD is over. Ditto for "Para Mis Padres," with its lovely and breathy flute melody. The originals by O'Connell are just as well crafted, coherently weaving in the solos as if they were part of the composition.
The driving "Crosswinds," strutting "Marionettes," and rhythm-shifting "Loon Lake" all fit into the mainstream category, with excellently defined solos provided by Harrell and Malach. The only potential indulgence regarding this record relates to the listener, who may want to put it on over and over.
Personnel: Steve Hobbs: vibraphone; Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Malach: tenor saxophone;
Dave Valentin: flute; Bill O'Connell: piano; Peter Washington: bass; John Riley: drums; Steve