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Chuck Deardorf And Dave Peterson: Portal

Mark Sabbatini By

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I suspect a number of Seattle jazz fans have waited a long time for this album.

Guitarist Dave Peterson and bassist Chuck Deardorf have spent 25 years teaching music, playing clubs and recording as sidemen with various artists. With that much experience it's probably safe to assume that 1) they know everything they need to when it comes to releasing a solid album of their own and 2) there isn't much chance they'll be perceived as the "next new big thing." The debut album by the pair, Portal, pretty much fulfills both expectations.

Playing with well-regarded fellow locals Hans Teuber on sax and John Bishop on drums, they've compiled an album that might be best described as comfortable. Everyone provides solid support and the overall textures laid are pleasing in a way inviting comparisons to group efforts led by performers from Wes Montgomery to the Yellowjackets (their mainstream work, not the early fusion stuff).

The only weakness is, while all but two of the ten songs are originals written by Peterson, the album just doesn't feel overly original. Not that Portal feels outdated or dull—it's fine contemporary mainstream jazz. But those who listen to a lot of it may too often find themselves comparing various songs to this group or that performer.

Peterson invokes a lot of memories of Montgomery with his tone and highly accessible melodic solos. Teuber's sax stays in a thoughtful and pleasing zone between cliches and discordant overindulgence, as does guest pianist George Cables. And Bishop lays down strong rhythms that consistently go beyond the predictable, even if it takes a few listens to really hear them. Perhaps the same ought to be said for all the solos—everybody does well with their time, but nothing overly uninhibited that invokes a serious initial "wow" factor.

Ultimately, "Portal" is a reminder—both good and bad—that there are an awful lot of good jazz albums like this in the world slipping under the radar largely unnoticed. Fans of the musicians will almost certainly appreciate it. It's also the sort of album a Seattle record store can offer in good conscience to customers "looking for some good local jazz," even if it doesn't necessarily stand out from what they might get in any number of other cities. It seems a shame to imply anything less than wholly positive about an album lacking weak spots, but what Peterson and Deardorf have done in one sense is bring home report cards with straight "Bs"—more praiseworthy but less interesting than the more eclectic sibling with a mix of "A-plus" and "C-minus" efforts.

Track Listing: Portal, Rhythm Tune, Crazy Heart, Mr. Schmeil, That's the Deal, Blues for Dave, Invitation, Song for LeeThe Last Minute, Ana Maria

Personnel: Dave Peterson--guitar; Chuck Deardorf--bass; Hans Teuber--saxophones; George Cabls--piano and electric piano; John bishop--drums; Michael Spiro--percussion on #2 & #5

Title: Portal | Year Released: 2004


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