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Mark Elf has adopted a minimalist approach on Dream Steppin’, placing his expressive guitar front and center in a trio setting with old pros Neal Miner on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Unlike Elf’s previous eight albums on his Jen Bay label, there are no other front–liners or guest artists, and to be honest, none is needed. Elf is an eloquent, resourceful player in the Barney Kessel / Herb Ellis / Joe Pass tradition who has a pleasing sound, swings at every tempo and is perfectly able to carry an album on his fretboard, even one that is comprised of eight of his compositions, three standards (“Have You Met Miss Jones,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “Cheek to Cheek”) and one song (“America”) taken from the public domain. Of course, it helps to have teammates like Miner and Nash who are paragons of proficiency and taste. Miner’s broad, resonant sound is complemented by a flawless sense of time, and Nash, one of this reviewer’s favorite timekeepers, is a consummate artist with brushes or sticks. With the backup system securely in place, Elf is free to let his imagination roam and his fingers fly, as he does from the opening chords of “Dream Steppin’” (a.k.a. ”You Stepped Out of a Dream”) through the last measures of “Pregnant Chad Blues” (a brief alternate take of which closes the session). “Dream Steppin’” is a captivating theme, but no more so than Elf’s other compositions, from “Loved Again,” “Griff’s Riff” and “Oye DNA” to “Ballad 2000,” “Rhymin’ for Simon,” “Blues to the Left” and of course, “Pregnant Chad Blues.” Instead of dragging the album down their engaging presence lends it even greater freshness and charm. Thanks in part to Elf’s unremitting efforts to make known their worth, most of his other albums have risen to the top of the Jazz charts, and we can see no reason why Dream Steppin’ shouldn’t take its place beside them.
Contact: Jen Bay Records, P.O. Box 184, East Rockaway, NY 11518. Web site, www.jenbayjazz.com; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Track Listing: 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; Have You Met Miss Jones; Pregnant Chad Blues (alternate take) (59:31).
Personnel: Mark Elf, guitar; Neal Miner, bass; Lewis Nash, drums.