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Steve Davis: For Real

Bruce Lindsay By

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For lovers of straight-ahead jazz the Posi-Tone record label is a pretty safe bet, a mark of quality. Label owner and producer Marc Free seems to possess a knack for combining excellent musicians and high quality studios (aided and abetted by engineer Nick O'Toole) to create fresh and rewarding music.

Trombonist Steve Davis is one of those excellent musicians and For Real is his fourth album for the label. Davis' long career has seen him produce 16 previous albums as leader, while his sideman credits are extensive and include albums with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Art Blakey. For Real finds him once again in the company of pianist Larry Willis, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Billy Williams, who all appeared on Davis' previous release, Gettin' It Done (Posi-Tone, 2012). Davis is joined on the front line by saxophonist Abraham Burton, a Grammy winner with the Mingus Big Band. The tenor and trombone combination works beautifully, the instruments complementing each other to boost the richness of the quintet's sound.

"Blues On Blues," written by pianist Larry Willis, is a pleasant tune that, unsurprisingly, gives the players a chance to show their bluesier side. The rest of the tunes are Davis' own compositions.

Mid-tempo groovers such as "For Real" and "Angie's Groove," the Latin swinger "Daylight" and the up-tempo, hard bop "Tactics"—which features tight, assertive solos from all five musicians—are irresistible chunks of fun: effortlessly swinging and positive tunes. They're impressive, as compositions and as performance, but it's the gentler numbers that really impress. "Nicky D" may have a similar tempo to "For Real" but there's more space (Burton sits this one out) and Davis' trombone sound is at its warmest and most inviting. "Days Gone By" finds the quintet in a meditative mood. It's a ballad that takes its inspiration from pre-bop rather than post-bop, with Burton's solo and Willis' comping proving central to its success. The easy-going romance of "I Found You" completes the trio of soulful tunes.

For Real is a superb album, an object lesson in small band jazz and a shining example of the trombonist's art. It can proudly take its place as one of the Posi-Tone label's finest releases—as a quick check of the label's catalog will show, that's quite an accolade.

Track Listing: For Real; Nicky D; Angie's Groove; Days Gone By; Big East; Blues On Blues; Tactics; I Found You; Daylight.

Personnel: Steve Davis: trombone; Abraham Burton: tenor saxophone; Larry Willis: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Billy Williams: drums.

Title: For Real | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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