Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Steve Davis Quintet at Cecil's Jazz Club

David A. Orthmann By

Sign in to view read count
Steve Davis Quintet
Cecil's Jazz Club
West Orange, NJ
June 15, 2007

The first of Steve Davis's seven recordings as a leader for the Criss Cross Jazz imprint, entitled The Jaunt, refers to the 110 mile trip from the trombonist's longtime base in Hartford, CT to the jazz Mecca, New York City. Although each of the Criss Cross sides has documented Davis as a savvy organizer of small mainstream ensembles, fans were more likely to hear him in person in bands like One For All, or The New Jazz Composers Octet. Fortunately, over the past couple of years Davis's treks to the Big Apple have often been for gigs under his own name.

Cecil's Jazz Club is a northern New Jersey venue which hosts Davis on a semi-regular basis. Although his June 15th appearance included an excellent working ensemble of alto and soprano saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, pianist David Bryant, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Eric McPherson, the band's greatest strength was the empathy between the musicians. Even as a motif spontaneously made the rounds, the ongoing interplay, particularly between the rhythm section and soloists, always maintained a core of stability.

A composer deserving of wider recognition, Davis's themes are thought-provoking, soulful, and devoid of affectation. The first set at Cecil's featured mostly work written only a week or so prior to the date. The new pieces were part of The Hartford Suite, a work in progress, consisting of tributes to people and places associated with the city. "Nato is the nickname given bassist Nat Reeves by the late Jackie McLean, Davis's teacher and mentor at the Hartt School of Music, and both Reeves and Davis were sidemen in McLean's band during the 1990s. Davis dedicated "The Modernist to Chick Austin, a former curator of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. In the early twentieth century, Austin was responsible for bringing the first major Picasso retrospective to the United States. A longstanding (now defunct) jazz room in Hartford's south end, "Club 880 was an important venue in the early years of Davis's career.

The trombonist's solo on "Nato set a high standard, which he maintained throughout the set. His smooth- sounding lines were substantial yet easy to follow. Davis continuously generated fresh ideas, yet he was never in a hurry. Leaving space for Bryant, he took one of the pianist's phrases in the accompaniment and incorporated it in the following sequence of his own solo. Small changes in emphasis played in a full, lush tone made his "Rose Garden solo one of the night's highlights. As always, Davis proved that he didn't need to wax dramatic to make an impact.

DiRubbo proved to be an ideal frontline partner. The alto saxophonist's ideas gradually became more expansive during the course of "The Modernist, as he displayed a coherent flow and relaxed command of the horn. When McPherson's drums started chattering behind him, DiRubbo's phrases on "Spirit Waltz (one of the gems in Davis's deep book of tunes) twisted in various directions before his tone got noticeably broader on a series of long notes.

Bryant's spot on "The Modernist consistently inspired interesting changes by Douglas and McPherson, the pianist's split-second hesitation leading to an alteration in the previously steady bass line, and some in-the-pocket playing provoking a double-timed ride cymbal for a long stretch. Later on in the solo, Bryant's intermittent chords came in pairs, his ideas on "Spirit Waltz revealing a McCoy Tyner influence that wasn't overly broad. At one point hard, obsessively repeated chords clashed with biting right-hand lines.

Throughout, McPherson demonstrated why he's a significant force in jazz drumming, his straight-ahead groove deep and full of telling details, occasionally marked by stimulating albeit brief tangents. Unlike numerous assertive trapsters, McPherson's busy-ness never became overbearing or distracting because he was always listening. His extended turn on "Nato employed a variety of textures, went in and out of time, and included a smart theme built around the band's riff.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall" Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens" Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin" Live Reviews Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Jazztopad Festival 2017" Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Ian Shaw With The Phil Ware Trio at The Workmans Club" Live Reviews Ian Shaw With The Phil Ware Trio at The Workmans Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 28, 2017