In light of the serious medical issues that guitarist Mark Elf has overcome recentlyhe had a kidney disorder and is recovering from prostate cancerany new CD he puts out is a triumph for him and his many fans. Glad To Be Back , a crisp balance of standards and originals, is Elf's musical affirmation of life. His quartet, featuring the stellar rhythm section of pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, performed at Smoke last month.
The opener, "Elfin's Pace," is based on the changes of "Giant Steps," with Elf soloing along the same lines that Trane did. On "Little Old Lady," Elf plays lightning-quick riffs above a mid-tempo melody and Hazeltine follows suit when he takes his solo. The ballad "Alfie" is Elf's story all the way, from his pensive opening statement through the tenderly interpreted solo, to the closing flourish, all augmented nicely by Nash's brushwork. "Bossa For Eric A" is a shoulder-weaving delight with dazzling work by Hazeltine and "A Fancy For Yancy" is a playful waltz. Sandwiched between two identical versions of "Falling In Love With Love" are the lush slow jam "Ballad For Bertrand" and the bright, up-tempo "Gaston's Gate." The only misstep is "Count Spacey," which is weighted down by a tepid drum guitar exchange by Elf and Nash, which is followed by Nash's equally impassive solo.
It's appropriate that the first song on the disc was inspired by the title track from Giant Steps, which was one of John Coltrane's most personal albums. Elf's is just as personal, with several of the tunes named for friends and colleagues who offered their support during his troubles. Glad To Be Back is a testament to survival and a celebration of having more precious time to write songs, play the guitar and live life.
Elfin's Place; Little Old Lady; Groove For Gonzalez; Alfie; Bossa For Eric A; A Fancy For Yancy; Falling In Love With Love; Ballad For Bertrand; Gaston's Gate; Falling In Love With Love.
Mark Elf--Guitar; David Hazeltine--Piano; Peter Washington--Bass; Lewis Nash--Drums.
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