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The State of the Trombone 2009: Steve Davis and Luis Bonilla

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Jazz offers ample opportunity to hear diametrically opposed ideas and approaches coming from similar ensembles (and sometimes the same ensemble, as with saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
). Consider, on one side, the middle-of-the-road, mainstream, standards jazz made early on by trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
and the free jazz of saxophonist Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
. The trombone has had players in both corners as different as Al Grey
Al Grey
Al Grey
1925 - 2000
trombone
and Roswell Rudd
Roswell Rudd
Roswell Rudd
b.1935
trombone
, Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
1905 - 1964
trombone
and Grachan Moncur. Here are two similarly dissimilar trombonists, Steve Davis and Luis Bonilla, each turning in a superb recording.

Steve Davis

Eloquence

Jazz Legacy Productions

2009

Steve Davis

Steve Davis
Steve Davis
b.1967
trombone
is a keeper of the flame. His vehicles are time tested standards and a golden 'bone tone warm enough to heat the house at Christmas. Davis adds the support of pianist Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, drummer Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
b.1968
drums
and special guest, trumpeter Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
b.1969
trumpet
to the mix for a completely enjoyable mainstream jazz recording. Think of a swinging set in the study drinking a single malt (a martini would be too sharp), reading the paper, and that begins to capture the disc's ambiance.

The standards are displayed in fine fashion. "Yardbird Suite" is slowed enough for comfort and a realization of what bebop is. "How Deep is the Ocean" is painted with light blues and greens; "It Could Happen to You" bounces at every step; Roy Hargrove adding his special touch with vibraphonist Steve Nelson

Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson

vibraphone
. Hank Jones' "Minor Contention" and Davis' "T.H.E Blues" inject modernity into an otherwise updated sepia reading of the Great American Songbook.

John Lewis

John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
' "Django" and J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
1924 - 2001
trombone
's "Lament" prove singular on the recording by, at once, stepping out of the disc's thematic mold and thereby increasing its artistic density. "Django" allows Jones ample room to prove his admiration for Lewis and Nelson's for Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
1923 - 1999
vibraphone
. Where "Django" focused on his support, "Lament" belonged solely to Davis, who spent a good deal of time listening to J.J. Johnson. Eloquence is certainly that.

Visit Steve Davis on the web.

Luis Bonilla

I Talking Now

Planet Arts

2009

Well, so much for the mainstream with Steve Davis. Luis Bonilla

Luis Bonilla
Luis Bonilla

trombone
's I Talking Now is an intelligent, in-your-face collections of originals that is anything but mainstream. Crisp post bop presented as tightly focused freedom characterizes Bonilla's efforts on the disc. Like Davis, Bonilla employs a conspicuous pianist in Arturo O'Farrill, whose angular inclinations mesh well with bassist Andy McKee and drummer John Riley.

Bonilla kicks things off with the title tune, a relentless look at where things might have gone had Coltrane not spun off into outer space. The presentation of the solo instruments against Riley's persistent drumming is stimulating, particularly Ivan Renta

Ivan Renta
Ivan Renta
b.1980
saxophone
's thrilling opening tenor solo, which recalls Coltrane's duets with drummer Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
. Renta plays his Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
thing on the lengthy "No Looking Back," buoyed by O'Farrill's percussive piano and McKee's demanding bass.

"Fifty Eight" sums up the recording as a progressively developed melting pot of Latin, African and American jazz influences. Bonilla and Renta play post-Bach counterpoint over the tight rhythm section of O'Farrill, McKee, and Riley, accomplishing a demanding and, in turn rewarding, composition. Luis Bonilla offers a great contrast to the traditionalism of Steve Davis. These are two very different visions of the trombone in jazz. Let us be glad.

Visit Luis Bonilla on the web.


Tracks and Personnel

Eloquence



Tracks: Red; Yardbird Suite; How Deep is the Ocean; Minor Contention; T.H.E Blues; It Could Happen to You; My Ship; Have You Met Miss Jones; Django; Road Song; Peedlum; Lament; When the Saints Go Marching In.



Personnel: Steve Davis: trombone; Hank Jones: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Joe Farnsworth; Roy Hargrove: trumpet; Steve Nelson: vibraphone; John Lee: acoustic bass guitar.

I Talking Now



Tracks: I Talking Now; Uh, Uh, Uh...; No Looking Back; Closer Still; Fifty Eight; Triumph; Luminescence; Elis.



Personnel: Luis Bonilla: trombone; Ivan Renta: saxophones; Arturo O'Farrill; Andy McKee: bass; John Riley: Drums.


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