Jazz CD Reviews
Steve Davis, trombone – Alone Together – Mapleshade
Published on May 9, 2007
(Steve Davis, trombone; Larry Willis, piano; Nat Reeves, bass; Eric McPherson, drums)
The new CD by the Steve Davis Quartet, Alone Together, sets a happy tone. With Davis on trombone, Larry Willis on piano, Nat Reeves on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums, the band manages to evoke a wonderful mood. The feeling is one of stepping out on the town, enjoying yourself after having stayed in for far too long. Even through the sadder numbers, the ensemble creates that feeling of joy coming after a long period of sorrow.
The first track, Milestones, starts with Larry Willis’ piano announcing the good news in an upbeat tone. Reeves picks up the pace of the song and McPherson carries it on a strong walking bass line. Davis does here what he does phenomenally through the whole album: play in a controlled, even subtle manner, reaching to evoke emotion instead of merely blasting out notes.
The album continues with My Foolish Heart, a song that has Davis using his trombone as a tool for dialogue. Davis plays slowly and softly; making sure each phrasing carries as much meaning as words could evoke. It is refreshing to hear this kind of restraint and purposefulness in playing. The band here beautifully mimics Davis’ rises and falls, framing his wonderful playing.
Surrey With The Fringe On Top, has Davis playing right into the dominant mood of the record. Even in this more energetic song, almost no brassy sound emerges from Davis’ instrument. McPherson takes command of the song’s tempo and keeps the mood light.
The title track, Alone Together, creates a feeling of excitement. Willis and McPherson play jubilantly, framing Davis’ more cool tone. Davis serves as te calculated seductive voice to contrast the contained frenzy of the rest of the band. The quartet seems to really enjoy this song, achieving a playfully ironic mood.
Next up is the somber, The Day You Said Goodbye. This track features Davis’ best work on the album. His playing here is lyrical, attempting to elevate te emotions of the song to a higher level. Were the composition slightly less conventional, the song would be near perfect. As is, it is still fantastic.
United features rambunctious playing by McPherson and great bass work by Reeves. Willis and Davis let loose in a way they don’t on the rest of the album, and the result is pleasurable and refreshing.
Next is We’ll Be Together Again, a varied song that features Davis playing with several different moods and tempos. In this more complex song, it is essential that the entire ensemble function, and they do. McPherson and Reeves steer the song through each shift it makes, and Willis’ light piano pays well against Davis.
On Ummg, Reeves gets to start front and center and strut his stuff. His urbane, smart bass creates the feel for this sly track. The song is the closest that the CD comes at any point to lite jazz, but the tight quartet seers clear of the pitfalls of that sound.
The final track, Short Cake, is a boisterous closing number. Willis’ playing winds all around the song, offering perhaps his best soloing on the album. The rhythm section is subdued except when called upon, allowing Davis and Willis’ to bring this fine record to a close in a fun way. Alone Together is an album worth a listen for Davis’ great playing alone, but the entire ensemble makes this a CD definitely worth checking out.
Track List: Milestones, My Foolish Heart, Surrey With The Fringe On Top, Alone Together, The Day You Said Goodbye, United, We’ll Be Together Again, Umg, Short Cake
– Ethan Krow