April 24, 2009 was a busy day for saxophonist Doug Webb, his fellow musicians and the production team at North Hollywood’s Entourage Studios. Recordings from that day have already been released on the excellent Midnight (Posi-Tone 2010): now Renovations delivers more music from the session, and very welcome it is, too.
As with the previous recording Renovations features the core trio of Webb, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Gerry Gibbs on a collection of jazz standards, joined on each track by one of three guest pianist. Larry Goldings had equal credit on the sleeve of Midnight, appearing on five tunes, but on this album he shares the piano work more equally with Joe Bagg and Mahesh Balasooriya.
The tunes, as before, are familiar—overly so, perhaps—but the band is so stylish and inventive that each tune seems more like an old friend from way back than a relative who’s overstayed a welcome. The band is tight, melodic and richly-toned, treating these standards with respect, but also with an almost boyish enthusiasm. Clarke’s bass playing seems especially strong and inventive, whether driving hard on Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette” or taking a more measured and gentle approach on Henry Mancini’s romantic “Slow Hot Wind.”
Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Satin Doll” is taken at a terrific pace, its usual seductiveness replaced with excitement and verve, both of which are epitomised by outstanding solos from Bagg and Clarke. Arthur Schwartz’ “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You” swings gently thanks to Clarke and Gibbs: Goldings’ piano and Webb’s alto saxophone share the lead line, both playing with a delicate grace. Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” is introduced by Goldings’ Monk-like piano. Underpinned by Gibbs’ brushed shuffle beat, it features another rich bass solo from Clarke as well as lyrical and flowing solos from Webb and Goldings.
Renovations closes with “Slow Hot Wind,” Webb’s saxophone and Goldings’ piano both lending the tune a late-night feel. It’s a stylish end to the second set of tunes from that April day.