Although his style runs along hard bop lines, alto saxophonist Jesse Davis' sixth album as a leader is a straight-ahead modern mainstream album that emphasizes his lyricism and familiar ease with a melody. In Robert Altman's film Kansas City
, Davis performed in his own intense style, displaying the edginess in his saxophone tone and the speed with which he can play that instrument. For this session he's backed by pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Kenny Washington and guitarist Peter Bernstein. The compositions are his own, and the New Orleans native shows influences that can be traced back through the history of jazz.
Some of the tunes float with a lyrical pleasantness: "Nola," "Midnight Blue," and "A Little R&R." Some of the tunes are driven with intensity: "Donkey Stomp," "J's Idea," and "B.Y.O.G." Bernstein joins the ensemble for six of the nine tracks, and his presence serves to add a softer timbre. Miller's expressive piano artistry is full of energy; his quirky portrayal on "Jetlagged" is a fine example of the variety he employs. Washington's drum set provides the spark and syncopation, while Carter's bass maintains the pulse; they share the spotlight with solos on "J's Idea" and "A Funny Thing" respectively. With lyrics including "I can't sing," Davis adds comic relief on "A Funny Thing," showing us his "everyman's" vocal talent.
The session allows a lot of time for improvised solo work from Davis, Miller and Bernstein, but because the compositions are well-crafted, it's much more than just a "blowing session." In the liner notes, Jesse Davis quotes Mulgrew Miller with an appropriate thought, "It's always nice to hear a musician who not only takes his time, but also has something to say." Recommended.