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Mark Elf: New York Cats

C. Michael Bailey By

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Boplicity. New York Cats is guitarist Mark Elf's fourth release on his Jen Bay record label. His 1997 release, Trickynometry, was number one on Gavin's Jazz Chart for 4 weeks, a feat one would expect this new disc to repeat or better. In a break from past practice, Elf does not include any major label musicians as guests on this disc, choosing instead to use only musicians he regularly performs with. The result is a relaxed, trio-driven set of standards and originals that proves Elf to be, in the words of the Detroit Free Press' Mark Stryker, "...the kind of cat who throws a party every time he plays a lick."

Perfectly Round Sound. The Berklee-trained Elf has a beautifully round, well-defined, tone that bears the mark of a variety of guitar influences from Charlie Christian to Wes Montgomery. Whether playing single notes, chords, or octaves, his solo conception and performance betrays a well-trained thoughtfulness that is never merely academic and is always infectious and positive. Elf and his merry trio (Jay Leonhart on bass and Dennis Mackrel on Drums or Kevin Burrell on percussion) swing with an effortless grace that defines all that is right about Jazz.

An Eclectic Mix. Elf starts with a solid Clifford Brown ("Brownie Speaks") and winds through a strolling "Blues in the Night". There is a hesitant "When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and a slippery "Stomping and the Savoy". The solos "Lady Be Good" and "Blues for Jenny" are disc highlights along with the originals "Walker's Walk" and "Pemble's Tremble". Elf's decision to use musicians familiar to him pays off in some tight, intelligent ensemble playing, as well as soloing. This entire package makes this disc wholly satisfying. New York Cats is a worthy follow-up to Trickynometry. Mark Elf produces serious, well-crafted jazz with an appropriate sense of humor and honor. Super disc!


Track Listing: Brownie Speaks; Blues in the Night; From This Moment On; Smoke Gets in Your eyes; No More Blues; The Conflict; Stompin' At The Savoy; Heartfelt; Walker's Walk; Pemble's Tremble; Lady Be Good; Blues for Jenny.

Personnel: Mark Elf: Guitar; Jay Leonhart: Bass; Dennis Mackrel: Drums; Kevin Burrell: Percussion.

Title: New York Cats | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Jen Bay Records


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