Trombonist Steve Davis has spent much of his two-decade jazz career in larger ensemblesbig bands but most notably sextets, from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Chick Corea's Origin and the co-op band One for All to Benny Golson's New Jazztet. But when Davis leads his own bands or puts out his own records he thinks smaller. Outlook is six quintet, two quartet tracks, with Davis joined by pianist David Bryant, bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer Eric McPherson and alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo (in the quintets).
There's an old jazz term in disuse today that perfectly describes Davis' trombone playing: cool. His very tonerich and velvety, as if the brass of his horn was burnished by suedecombined with his penchant for the middle and lower registers is the essence of cool. And his eloquent, understated lyricism is hard to find in many players of his generation (born in the late '60s). The two quartet ballad tracks here, Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" and Ellington's "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," are as good as cool gets.
But cool doesn't necessarily mean lacking verve or swing. There's plenty of that here too from Davis' own buoyant originalsthe bright title tune, Blakey-ish "Mission" and especially "Smooth," an akimbo take-off on smooth jazz with a spicy kick. McPherson is the indispensable fulcrum that leverages the excitement of the quintet numbers, from his "Take Five" take on the waltz "Line of Flight" to his rim shot Latin rhythms on "Bosco." But both Bryant and DiRubbo bring a tart angularity to the proceedings that contrast nicely with the leader's emphatic chill.
Outlook; Smooth; Lovely Day; Line Of Flight; I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good); Lord Davis; Mission; Bosco.
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