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Mark Elf: Swingin'

C. Michael Bailey By

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Mark Elf breaks new ground on his Jen Bay studio follow-up to Live at Smalls.

New York plectrist Mark Elf has been producing solid, bop-oriented music on his Jen Bay Records for the past 13 years. His playing style can be described as spherical. His tone is roundly polished and his playing is deliberately cyclical. His talent is virtuosic without being particularly technical or flashy. His most recent recordings have been characterized by an evolution in Elf's style manifested by his solidly swinging vision.

Mark Elf's chosen format for his last several discs has been the guitar trio. This has proven to be a durable set-up for Elf, who excels in the wide-open spaces of the small chamber orchestra. These last discs breakdown as follows:

  • New York Cats (Jen Bay 005, 1999)- Elf is joined by drummer Dennis Mackeral and bassist Jay Leonhart for this festive recital of original and standard tunes.
  • Over The Airwaves (Jen Bay 006, 1999)- Trapset expert Ralph Peterson replaces Dennis Mackeral on this upbeat, bluesy reading that features some wonderfully rambunctious blues and standards.
  • Live At Smalls (Jen Bay 007, 2000)- This is pure Be Bop/Hard Bop. Front and center are Horace Silver's "Quicksilver" and Monk's 52ndStreet Theme", along with Kenny Dorham's "The Theme". Elf's own minor blues, "109 West" rocks with confidence.

Swingin' finds Elf in his typically tasteful mainstream mood with the caveat that he is testing new harmonic waters with the inclusion of John Coltrane's "Lazy Bird" as well as his own "HOV Lane." Elf adds a jaunty little skip to the disc with the nuclear trill of "Gambinie's Bambinies". The very able talents of Winard Harper on Drums and Robert Hurst on bass, with a couple of cameos by pianist Aaron Goldberg support Elf.

With all of this talent in tow, Elf sets off with the same deliberate, laid-back temperament that has characterized his past recordings. The result has been consistently excellent small ensemble recording and this disc is no exception. His past recordings have also showcased Elf in a solo guitar setting and for Swingin', he executes a walking "Manhattan" that just plain swings.


Track Listing: I Won't Dance, Indubitably, Lazy Bird, Gambinie's Bambinies, All Of You, Waltz For Wilke, Hey There, Middle Of The Night, Blowins' For the Cohen's, HOV Lane, Manhattan, It Might As Well Be Spring

Personnel: Mark Elf, guitar; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Robert Hurst, bass; Winard Harper, drums

Title: Swingin' | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Jen Bay Records


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