Former Jazz Messenger Steve Davis might not have the name recognition of his Blakey forbear Curtis Fuller, but he’s no less a talented trombone player. We last examined his handiwork on Images: The Hartford Suite from a couple of years ago and now he’s set to release his second album since then, Gettin’ It Done. It’s another set of suave but poppin’ organic soul jazz. Davis again brings in Mike DiRubbo as his sax foil, but this time has Josh Bruneau on trumpet, Larry Willis on piano, Billy Williams on drums, and the ever-steady Nat Reeves on bass.
A very sharp set of performances, Davis and his crew produce enjoyable coves of John Coltrane’s “Village Blues” and Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” (YouTube above), both recognizable but also fresh renditions. The rest of the fare are Davis’ own tunes, a great mixture of toe-tappin shuffles (“Steppin’ Easy”), hot blues (“Gettin’ It Done) and smooth, melancholy ballads (“Alike”). Like Images, Gettin’ It Done is another flawless exhibition of triple horn, 60′s style jazz.
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.
Gettin’ it Done is a strong sextet outing with solid three-horn arrangements and inspired soloing. The ring leader of the ensemble is veteran trombonist Steve Davis whose straight-ahead, swinging original tunes are both ear-catching and memorable. Tunes such as the up-tempo title track, a minor blues with blistering solo turns from alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, Davis and trumpeter Josh Bruneau, and “Longview,” a spirited hard bop piece, stand out as disc highlights.
Davis’ lyrical waltz “Wishes” finds pianist Larry Willis in strong form, backed by the solid pulse of Nat Reeves on bass and Billy Williams on drums.
From start to finish the disc is predictably hip.