There's nothing muddy about the waters Bob DeVos dips his digits intohis fluid, sure and straight-ahead guitar rings as clear as any superbly played horn. Favoring moving single-note lines, he has fashioned a playing style influenced by horn masters like Sonny Stitt and he obviously admires Coltrane, who has received tributes on a couple of his recordings. He's also taken inspiration from pianists McCoy Tyner, Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock, and from guitar kingpin Wes Montgomery. And in his liner notes for Playing for Keeps, DeVos cites the Larry Young, Grant Green and Elvin Jones trio of the 1960s as a "spiritual resource.
Good music never goes out of style, and DeVos wears all of these influences well. But this string man also comes up with a fresh take on the traditions cemented by the musical brethren he admires. He weaves a multi-textured fabric of rich warm modern sounds out of standards as well as originals dashingly realized by his trio. As they did on his earlier Savant release Shifting Sands, drummer Steve Johns' lively cymbalism and Dan Kostelnik's energetic musings on Hammond B3 organ provide just the right mix of spunk and spice to support DeVos' funky groove. Accomplished tenorist Eric Alexander provides added punch on four tracks.
Standouts on this swinging journey include DeVos' own "Pause for Fred's Claws, exhibiting his bent for blues and more, and the classic "Body and Soul, in 3/4 time instead of 4/4, with Alexander amiably horning in. "Blues on the Corner, from McCoy Tyner's The Real McCoy (with DeVos, to quote himself, "playing the tenor part, Dan the piano role, but organically) and a delicious exploration of Monk's harmonically challenging "Ask Me Now are also highlights, as is an original honoring Montgomery, the aptly monikered "Wes Is More. Oh, it's all good, very personable. As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
And So It Goes; Naima; Pause For Fred
Bob DeVos: guitar; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone (1, 5, 8, 10); Dan Kostelnik: Hammond B-3 organ; Steve Johns: drums.