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Chick Corea’s Stretch Records has put out fine albums by Steve Wilson, Avishai Cohen, and Tim Garland — all members of Corea’s newest band, Origin. Now Origin’s Steve Davis takes his turn with Portrait In Sound, which highlights the trombonist’s gratifying interplay with vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Davis also enlists the support of pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Joe Farnsworth.
Aside from a straightforward reading of "Darn That Dream," a faster-than-usual "I’m Old Fashioned," and the Corea-penned 6/8 minor blues "Shadows," the material is original. And aside from the soul-inflected "The Slowdown" (on which Hazeltine plays Fender Rhodes), Davis’s writing is in a straight-ahead jazz vein, from the hip minor cadences of the opening title track to the Latin gusto of the closing "Samba D." The trombone/vibes combination has an intangibly vintage quality to it, giving certain tracks a 60s Blue Note flavor. But probing solos by Nelson, Hazeltine, and Davis himself — as well as pertinent guest appearances by Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen, Jeff Ballard, and co-producer Steve Wilson — make the album far more than an exercise in hard bop nostalgia.
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