Rhombus / Posi-tone
Release date: September 30th 2008 / March 24th 2009
Availability: CD, MP3 Download, iTunes
Steve Davis has been making great ensemble jazz in live performance, with the sextet ‘One For All’ and with a sequence of albums as leader with the seemingly obscurantist Criss Cross label. So, it is good to see that Posi-tone have released “Outlook” and that this album will hopefully reach a wider audience.
The inspiration that Jackie McLean brought to The Jazz Institute that he founded at Hartt School at Hartford University has been bearing fruit – alumni include Jimmy Greene, Tony Leone, Wayne Escoffery, Mike DiRubbo, Dezron Douglas as well as Steve Davis and Eric McPherson, who both also serve as Faculty members there.
The band on “Outlook” – Steve Davis (trombone), Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums) – draws on much of this talent as it presents five original compositions and three covers.
It is not surprising to hear that Mike DiRubbo studied alto sax with Jackie McLean. His playing is exemplary throughout with more than a hint of the acid sharpness of his great mentor, particulary on his own composition “Line Of Flight” and on the closing track, a fine reading of Cecil Payne’s “Bosco”.
The three Steve Davis Compositions – the opening title track, “Smooth” and “Mission” – make full use of the potential of the quintet to deliver interesting harmonization and involving soloing. The take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)”, featuring the leader’s trombone playing extensively, is a master class in silky, after hours jazz.
Douglas Dezron contributes the oddly titled “Lord Davis” which again features fine alto sax work from Mike DiRubbo.
The only track that could have been dispensed with is the version of Bill Withers’ pop platitude “Lovely Day”. Perhaps there are some tunes that no amount of chord substitution could ever revive.
That should not distract from what is a fine album with strong performances all round.