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StepTempest reviews the new Steve Davis CD…

Trombonist-composer-educatorSteve Davis teaches at Hartt School of Music’s Jackie McLean Institute and The Artist Collective.  Mentored by saxophonist McLean, Davis (born in Binghampton, NY and raised in Worcester, MA) stayed in Hartford but has traveled around the world.  He was in the final edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, toured and recorded with Chick Corea’s Origins band and is an original member of One For All.  “Gettin’ It Done” is his 3rd CD for PosiTone and does not stray far from the hard-bop swing that animates much of the trombonist’s recordings.  It marks the 9th time Davis has led or co-led a session with alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo.  Also featured on the recording is several other long-time associates, pianist Larry Willisand bassist Nat Reeves.  Rounding out the crew is 24-year old drummer Billy Williams and recent Hartt School alum Josh Bruneau on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The title tell its all – the band “hits” from the first note and never loses its focus.  Opening with John Coltrane’s “Village Blues” (from the 1960 “Coltrane Jazz” Lp), the music is blessed by the leader’s warm tones and willingness to share the spotlight.  Willis’s rich chords lead the piece in, Reeves and Williams lock into the grooves and the front line presents the sweet melody (which would have sounded out of place on “Kind of Blue.”) The leader takes the first solo; his winning combination of his sweet tone and smart improvisations lead to DiRubbo’s mellow-with-an-edge alto solo. But the surprise here is the dynamic work of young Mr. Bruneau.  Throughout this program, his clear, clean, sound and feisty attack is a treat.  His funky approach on Davis’s “The Beacon” shows the influence of Freddie Hubbard while the “groove” should remind listeners of The Crusaders.  Williams does not settle into the groove; instead, he pushes the piece forward while Reeves’ strong bass support along with Willis’s bright chords gives the piece its shape.

Other highlights include the sprightly “Sunny” (yes, the tune by Bobby Hebb) with its joyful interplay of trombone and trumpet as well as the lovely and lyrical “Wishes” that closes the program. The latter opens with the leader and DiRubbo playing the handsome theme leading into a long piano excursion from Willis.  The pianist is a masterful accompanist while every one of his solos seems to dance atop the beat with glee (he puts the dance steps into “Steppin’ Easy” and the fire into “Longview.”)

Steve Davis is one of the people who makes music that reflects his true being;  to wit, the music on “Gettin’ It Done” is bright, highly rhythmical and melodic, never pushy or condescending.  The band is sharp and attentive, the solos almost always impressive and one feels quite satisfied after spending tine with this music.