On the music scene since the mid 1970s, guitarist Mark Elf's career shifted into a higher gear when he began recording for his own Jen Bay records in the late 1980s. Since that time, he has spun out disc after disc receiving wide airplay. Chief among these are 2000's studio effort Over the Airways (Jen Bay 0006) and the in-concert Live at Smalls (Jen Bay 0007). The latter of these recordings is a veritable clinic for Be Bop guitar using Bop anthems as the teaching vehicle. Elf's own minor blues "109 West" rests in two versions as the performance centerpiece, betraying Elf's serpentine talent.
Mark Elf would be one of jazz's best-kept secrets were it not for his drive and fortitude. Where Elf has perhaps lacked major label support and exposure, he has made up for it with tireless touring and self-promotion. This has largely paid off for Elf as it has enabled him to record what material he wished with no outside dictation. The result for the listener is a widely varied catalog of Bop-drenched originals and standards that swing with a gentle (and sometimes frantic) assurance.
Elf's new Dream Steppin' is heavier on Elf originals when compared to his other recordings. He has two originals based on standards (the title track based on "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "Loved Again" based on "If I Love Again") and several Elf-forte blues (the minor-key "Griff's Riff" and standard "Blues to the Left," and almost calypso "Pregnant Chad Blues"). Elf includes his necessary solo guitar pieces, the first a very Joe Pass-like "America" and a slick "Have You Met Miss Jones."
Drummer Lewis Nash, who had recorded previously with the guitarist, most notably on Elf's release A Minor Scramble, joins Elf. On bass is Neal Minor, who previously recorded with Elf on Live At Small's, Trickynometry, and A Minor Scramble. Their respective contributions to the current disc are considerable in both the accompaniment and solo arenas. The total package here is the most effective Bop-driven guitar trio performing. Elf has a facility making all he plays enjoyable to listen to and consider.
Dream Steppin'; Too Marvelous For Words; Loved Again; Griff's Riff; Oye DNA; Ballad 2000; Rhymin' For Simon; Blues To The Left; America; Cheek To Cheek; Pregnant Chad Blues; Pregnant Chad Blues (Alternate Fragment). (Total Time: 59.39).
Mark Elf: Guitar; Lewis Nash: Drums; Neal Minor: Bass.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.