Bob DeVos The Turning Point Cafe
Piermont, New York
May 12, 2008
There's never been a better time to catch jazz/blues master Bob DeVos in live performance. Having played scores of gigs since 2005, DeVos's working trio, consisting of his guitar, organist Dan Kostelnik, and drummer Steve Johns, is at the peak of its creative peak. A seventy-five minute opening set at The Turning Point Cafe featured mostly selections from DeVos's two recent Savant releases, (2006) and Playing For Keeps (2007). The trio, plus guest saxophonist John Richmond, displayed an exemplary rapport, knowing when to mix it up and when to stay out of one another's way, but not without taking some risks, as when Kostelnik inserted brash substitutions for the original chords on the bridge of DeVos's nifty soul-jazz line, "Pause For Fred's Claws."
DeVos is a masterful jazz guitarist who prefers to beckon the listener to join him on the musical quest rather than overemphasize technique and velocity. Something ardent always stirs beneath a somewhat cool, calculated surface. From the onset of a solo on Cole Porter's "So In Love," he produced a full- bodied tone and sounded logical, direct, and unflappable even while executing complex single note runs at a fast tempo. An intensely swinging improvisation on Victor Young's ballad "My Foolish Heart" never strained for effect, structuring meaningful and lyrical statements in a very concise manner. The subtle shifts in rhythmic emphasis that are an essential part of DeVos's work were especially evident throughout "And So It Goes."
Not a thrill machine, Kostelnik shuns the typical Hammond organ cliches in favor of constructing solos that come off as complete statements. He often cultivates phrases by weighing and turning them over until satisfied before moving on to another set. For example, the organist began his "So In Love" solo by briefly galloping across the keyboard, making sense of some choppy phrases, then executing bounding Latin lines and extended chordal passages. He came out swinging hard on John Lewis' "Afternoon In Paris," picking out brief melodies, quoting Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare," and connecting some odd leaping lines.
The most extroverted member of the trio, Johns, with his slashing cymbals and decisive fills between the snare and toms, added heat and grit to the proceedings. A thematic solo on "And So It Goes" featured, in the midst of a conventional ride cymbal rhythm, cutting snare drum accents , swinging abstract figures broken up by single hits to the bass drum, and gleeful rumbling trips around the set.
Richmond joined the trio for three of the set's seven selections, his muscular tenor saxophone sound enlivening the samba take on "My Foolish Heart." Big imposing phrases, a smattering of bebop runs, and blues licks were all integrated within the architecture of his solo. His turn during "Three/Four Miss C" swung firmly and directly, especially when he played variations of a long cutting run. The saxophonist's range of articulations and sounds throughout "Afternoon In Paris" was colorful, diverse and expressive. He gripped one note tightly and then bent it; then he executed a long wavering scream; finally, he worked through a series of phrases that became gradually longer and more pointed, seeming to land dead center on their target.