Recording of the Week,
Steve Davis - Correlations
Steve Davis is a fine trombonist, who has been active in mainstream US jazz scene since joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the late eighties. Respected as a brilliant technician, on the evidence of this disc he’s also a first-rate composer (seven of the eleven tracks being his). There’s a pleasant sense of ease to Correlations, and even when things hot up, a sense of the musicians coming together and not over-thinking, egos held in check to the needs of the ensemble. Davis has selected a superb group in saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, trumpeter Joshua Bruneau, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Jonathan Barber, all of whom are completely on the same page with his conception for the project and each contributing memorable solos throughout. Things get off to a strong start with Embarcadero, a mid-tempo warming-up exercise, with Davis’s solo sounding effortless and suave. Subtlety isn’t in a rush to get anywhere either, with Bruneau’s trumpet in particular sounding resplendent. The salsa-driven Bautista's Revenge features a guest appearance from percussionist Cyro Baptista who adds to the carnival atmosphere. Escoffery’s sax break really leaps out here, all giddy clipped notes and deft pirouettes, plus a natty drum break from Jonathan Barber towards the tail-end which he seamlessly rolls over into the final chorus.
The stand-out track is Davis’s Song for My Love, a mid-tempo ballad dedicated to his wife, which could easily become a modern standard. Davis’s solo manages to be heartfelt without being overly sentimental, into which Bruneau’s trumpet cleverly morphs. Little touches like this reward close listening, especially when recorded with such clarity. The quality of Davis’s tunes allows them to sit proudly alongside a handful of classics by Horace Silver, George Cables, Thad Jones and a fast and flowing take of McCoy Tyner’s Inner Glimpse, which makes for a great finale to the record.
Perhaps it would have been nice to hear some of the players given more space to stretch out, but with so much talent in the sextet I can appreciate that Davis felt the need to let them all get a spot on every track. This keeps things moving along nicely, but occasionally it wouldn’t hurt to give a specific soloist the occasional feature. And given the full-bodied sound Dezron Douglas gets out of his bass, I’d like to have heard a bit more from him (I do like a palette-cleansing bass and drum breakdown). But this is just nit-picking really and there are plenty of moments where the rhythm section get some attention away from the horns. Steve Davis has put together a thoroughly enjoyable set that deserves to be heard by anyone with a thirst for new and memorable tunes, some of which I have no doubt will be taken up by other artists as part of the jazz repertoire.