Charles Davis – For the Love of Lori – Reade Street Records Reade 1111, 57:34 [6/3/14] *****: 

(Charles Davis – saxophones – Steve Davis – trombone – Joe Magnarelli – trumpet – Rick Germanson – piano – David Williams – bass – Neil Smith – drums)

Some of the most eloquent, heart felt, tender music from jazz musicians is composed after the loss of a spouse. Curtis Fuller’s I Will Tell Her, from Capri Records in 2010, comes to mind. Saxophonist Charles Davis’ paean to his wife, Lori Samet-Davis, also falls into this category. Lori passed away in 2012, and Charles has composed a CD that combines standards and original compositions. The well-known standards, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” combine with the title track to form a trio of songs of remembrance, sorrow, and love.

Davis is 81 years old and has a vibrant history (more of an able sideman with only just over ten CDs as a recording leader), covering a wide gamut of styles performing with Sun Ra, Kenny Dorham, Illinois Jacquet, Lionel Hampton, Louis Hayes, Clark Terry, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Davis also provided accompaniment for late Billie Holliday and Dinah Washington recordings. Although ably covering the alto and tenor sax, Charles is perhaps known for his baritone sax work.

Alongside his focus on his wife’s passing, Davis also plays tribute to his former leader, Kenny Dorham on “KD,” done appropriately in a hard bop vein with nice ensemble work from trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and trombonist Steve Davis. Special mention should be made of Magnarelli’s contributions throughout this CD. It is always a treat to hear Joe as he brings a warmth and vibrancy to any session he joins.

Davis combines lyrical tenderness with inside/out choruses gained from his tenure with Sun Ra and Archie Shepp. He literally is a man for all seasons. Pianist Rick Germanson ably stepped in for Cedar Walton, who was slated to perform on the CD. Walton was featured on Davis’ previous CD, Blue Gardenia. Germanson is featured on “Cedar’s Blues,” and did its arrangements.

The title track is a deeply moving ballad and the combination of Magnarelli’s mellifluous trumpet and Charles’ tenor (with hints of early Coltrane) will melt the hardest heart.

The combination of Magnarelli and Davis teaming with Charles, alongside the sensitive and intuitive pianist, Rick Germanson, and the intriguing song selection make the purchase of this Charles Davis CD highly recommended.  It is well recorded and mixed, which makes it acquisition that much more of a wise decision.

TrackList: Begues, What’ll I Do, Juliano, KD, For the Love of Lori, Into the Himalayas, Cedar’s Blues, I’ll Be Seeing You

—Jeff Krow