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Orbert Davis, one of the Chicago area's favorite sons and best-kept secrets (although that status is rapidly changing), hasn't tinkered much with his third and latest albumit's essentially straight-ahead small-group jazzbut has managed to place the engine where the caboose should be.
What I mean is, when you're a mind-bending trumpeter and have programmed songs like the sepulchral "Blue Notes and Parker/Gillespie's lightning-quick archetype "Shaw'Nuff, it's quite clear (to me, at least) which one to lead with if you wish to put your best foot forward. I know, "Shaw'Nuff has been played to death, more often than not by celebrated reedmen and trumpeters, but if you want to hear Davis fly like the wind instead of (literally) muting his enormous talent, kindly direct your attention to Track 10.
Aside from that quibble, this is a splendid studio session with a number of A-level charts and intrepid blowing by Davis, tenor saxophonist Ari Brown, trombonist Tracy Kirk and pianist Ryan Cohan, among others. Davis wrote two of the songs, co-authored two more ("Blue Notes, "Life Is Short ) with Mark Ingram and one each with Cohan ("Dear D'Lana ) and Kurt Elling ("Glass Walls ). Rounding out the program are Cohan's "Steppin' Up," Wayne Shorter's "Hammer Head, and Herbie Hancock's "Driftin'.
Davis' "Back in the Day, a funky salute to such soul classics as Hancock's "Watermelon Man and Freddie Hubbard's "Sidewinder, is a highlight, as are the tender "Dear D'Lana, written for a childhood friend who lost her life in an accident, the exuberant "Steppin' Up (with Orbert's brash trumpet leading a quartet) and the placid "Glass Walls, on which Davis plays flugel (as he does on "Dear D'Lana and Driftin' ). Dee Alexander, a capable blues-based singer, is the vocalist on "Blue Notes and "Life Is Short.
Davis, one of those unique all-purpose trumpeters who can do everything well, is impressive throughout, and there are a number of effective statements by Brown and Kirk. Cohan plays well but his piano is so conspicuously recorded that it tends to overshadow rather than reinforce the group dynamic. Not his fault, of course; he's only doing what is expected of him. On the whole, another first-rate album by one of the Windy City's most talented and versatile musicians, one that is well worth checking out.
Track Listing: Blue Notes; Hammer Head; Back in the Day; Dear D Lana; The Real Deal; Steppin Up; Glass Walls; Life Is Short; Driftin; ShawNuff (51:55).
Personnel: Orbert Davis, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ari Brown (2, 3, 5, 8, 10), tenor sax; Tracy Kirk (2, 3, 5, 8, 10), trombone; Ryan Cohan, piano; Stewart Miller (1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10), Lorin Cohen (2, 3, 6, 9), bass; Kobie Watkins, drums, woodblock; Jose Rendon (3, 10), congas, bongos; Alejo Poveda (4, 5, 7, 10), cabasa, tambourine, timbale, cowbell, shaker, percussion; Dee Alexander (1, 8), vocals.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.