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2:15 pm
Sat February 1, 2014

Jazz CD of the Month: Steve Davis / For Real / Positone Records

Here's a release that is going to write it's own review, a session so inspired and intuitively right-there that it all bubbles to the surface propelled by the buoyant trombone sound of Steve Davis. This quintet session is Davis's seventeenth album as leader and a gem among a steady succession of strong recordings.

Certainly one of our great contemporary jazz artists, Steve Davis has acquired his impressive jazz chops through years of wood-shedding and playing in good company. A member of Art Blakey's final group of Jazz Messengers, Jackie McLean's group, Chick Corea's “Origin” and the cooperative group “One For All”, he has been an essential element of the modern jazz scene for over two decades. With a warm trombone voice evoking the sound of J.J. Johnson, Davis is a superb soloist and composer. All but one of the pieces on this album are substantive originals.

The second horn player for the date is tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, who was a member of drummer Arthur Taylor's “Wailers”, plays in the Mingus Big Band and also tours with the Abraham Burton-Eric McPherson Quartet. He possesses a rich, authoritative sound and invokes a restless edge to the selections with his creative solos.

The rhythm section on “For Real” is a dangerous trio capable of supporting and steering the horn men with articulate drive and finesse. Pianist Larry Willis's discography extends back to classic Blue Note sessions with Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean. He was a member of Jerry Gonzalez's Fort Apache Band and has also led his own sessions. Willis is a player with consummate taste and a polished soulfulness expressed with exquisite chords. Bassist Nat Reeves has just the right touch. He spent a lot of time with Jackie McLean in the 1990s and has recorded with Steve Davis numerous times. Drummer Billy Williams is one of those fine musicians who combine taste and energy, laying back when the mood is serene and driving proceedings on more upbeat numbers – as evidenced with his splendid work upon “Daylight”.

All of these artistic elements come together on “For Real” in a pleasingly cohesive album. From the bluesy strut of the title track, the relaxed beat of “Angie's Groove”, the smoking, boppish feel of “Tactics” to the insistent Latin beat of “Daylight”, there's a lot to like. “Big East” sounds like a page from the Jazz Messengers book with mellifluous notes flowing from Davis's trombone. “Days Gone By” finds the group in a pensive mood and “I Found You” is laid back and melodic. The one non-Davis piece, Larry Willis's number "Blues On Blues", is a low-intensity groover with marvelous interplay between bassist Reeves, drummer Williams and the soloists.  

Yes, there is a lot to enjoy on “For Real”. Check it out this month during our jazz programs on KIOS-FM and even pick up a copy for yourself. As with Steve Davis's other albums, his music stands up very nicely over the years as enduring jazz statements.

Musicians: Steve Davis: trombone; Abraham Burton: tenor saxophone; Larry Willis: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Billy Williams: drums

Tracks: For Real; Nicky D; Angie's Groove; Days Gone By; Big East; Blues On Blues; Tactics; I Found You; Daylight

For more information you may visit http://www.stevedavis.info/

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