No pretense surrounds Chicago trumpeter Orbert Davis's third effort, Blue Notes. The album eulogizes the hard bop ethos of the '60s Blue Note catalog. Davis covers classics from that period like Wayne Shorter's "Hammer Head" and Herbie Hancock's "Driftin'." The trumpeter's own composition, "Back in the Day," sounds like a cross between "Watermelon Man" and "The Sidewinder."
This is isn't to say that Blue Notes is a sterile recycling of another era's sound. Davis imbues the tunes with his own touches. The rhythm behind the all-so-familiar theme of "Back in the Day" drives a bit harder, and the appearance of Jose Rendon's congas adds a spicy twist. Davis is as much known for his classical inclinations as his jazz playing, both manifest in "Glass Walls," an atmospheric piece he penned as part of a larger suite. Also, the Spanish brass feel of "Dear D'Lana" and the edgy, modern bite of "The Real Deal" don't exactly fit the hard bop paradigm.
Davis' improvisation also keeps things fresh. A clear tone and powerful sound characterize his trumpet style, and he sustains high register flurries and long notes during his solos that will delight listeners.
The album also offers a variety of instrumental combinations: the quartet formation of the leader's trumpet with his regular rhythm section of Ryan Cohan (piano), Stewart Miller (bass), and Kobie Watkins (drums); a sextet, featuring unison lines and fleet soloing by Ari Brown on tenor saxophone and Tracy Kirk on trombone; and vocals by Dee Alexander on "Blue Notes" and "Life Is Short."