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Bob DeVos: Playing for Keeps

Jack Bowers By

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There are few lovelier sounds in music than a guitar that is played correctly, and by that I mean with warmth and sensitivity, even though I couldn't single out one guitarist from another even under threat of waterboarding. All that's really necessary, though, is to know who can play, and Bob DeVos raises no doubt about that. Logically and aesthetically, he's squarely on the mark.

DeVos, who toured and performed early on with such legendary organists as Richard "Groove Holmes, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland, has patterned his close-knit guitar/organ/drums combo after the classic Grant Green/Larry Young/Elvin Jones threesome of the 1960s. Dan Kostelnik and Steve Johns have supplanted Young and Jones, and like their celebrated prototypes, they know how to swing in any framework from blues to ballad to burner. To ice the cake, DeVos has enlisted the services of another frequent collaborator, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who adds variety and muscle on four tracks.

DeVos' sound is smooth and mellow, what one might call laid-back, and his keen improvisations flow as easily as water from a tap. Kostelnik has his moments too, while he and Johns see to it that the rhythmic engine never falters. As for Alexander, he affirms with each new album—and he has appeared on close to a hundred—why he is one of my favorite young tenor players (even though he indulges in some atypical acrobatics on Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance ).

"Dance is one of four jazz standards on the menu, the others being John Coltrane's "Naima, Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now and McCoy Tyner's "Blues on the Corner. Completing the session are four originals by DeVos (including "Wes Is More, his homage to guitarist Wes Montgomery) and the standards "So In Love and "Body and Soul. Besides "Dance, Alexander shines on "Body and Soul, "Wes Is More and DeVos' soul-splashed curtain-raiser, "And So It Goes.

But this is DeVos' domain, and his amiable guitar is the hub around which everything revolves. Even though I couldn't pick him out of a lineup, it's a pleasure to hear DeVos Playing for Keeps, especially when inspired by such accomplished teammates as Kostelnik, Johns and Alexander. A splendid session, well worth checking out.


Track Listing: And So It Goes; Naima; Pause For Fred

Personnel: Bob DeVos: guitar; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone (1, 5, 8, 10); Dan Kostelnik: Hammond B-3 organ; Steve Johns: drums.

Title: Playing For Keeps | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Savant Records

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