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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 love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.