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Steve Davis: Images - The Hartford Suite

John Barron By

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Images—The Hartford Suite pays homage to the culture and history of Hartford, Connecticut, courtesy of trombonist/composer Steve Davis, a long time resident of the city and faculty member at the University of Hartford. The ten-part suite is a sizzling set of straight-ahead jazz; stimulating, melodic and swinging. Davis, who co-leads the acclaimed ensemble One for All, and has performed as a sideman with the likes of Jackie McLean and Art Blakey, has assembled an impressive quintet for the session, with trumpeter Josh Evans adding to the mix on a handful of tracks.

Davis' writing, firmly established in the hard-bop tradition, emphasizes singable themes with tight two and three part harmonies. Each tune offers plenty of wide-open space for solos. An adept improviser with quick-fire agility and relaxed phrasing, Davis sets the pace with winding and witty turns on up-tempo burners ("Nato," "Tune for Calhoun"), medium swingers ("Twain's World," "J Mac's Way") and Latin-inspired grooves ("Park Street," "Kenney's").

Alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo and pianist David Bryant share the spotlight throughout, with vibrant, effervescent lines, spurring each other on with intensity and camaraderie. DiRubbo does a more than adequate job channeling the spirit of the late alto sax giant McLean on "J Mac's World." Evans brings added warmth to the session, albeit sporadically, especially with flugelhorn in hand on the hauntingly buoyant "Mode for Miantonomoh." Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson are solid yet extremely pliable, pushing the top-end of the beat and adding creative intuitiveness.

Who knew Hartford was so hip? Left to the eyes and ears of Davis, the city comes off as one of the swinging-est places on the map. Images—The Hartford Suite is no-nonsense, small group jazz at its finest.

Track Listing: Nato; The Modernist; Twain's World; J Mac's Way; Mode for Miantonomoh; Rose Garden; Tune for Calhoun; Park Street; Kenney's; Club 880.

Personnel: Steve Davis: trombone; Mike DiRubbo: alto saxophone; David Bryant: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Josh Evans: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kris Jensen: tenor saxophone (10).

Title: Images - The Hartford Suite | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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