Jon Davis – Happy Juice – Posi-Tone

by | Jul 20, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

Jon Davis – Happy Juice – Posi-Tone PR8171 [7-7-2017] 49:33 ****:

Talented jazz pianist pays tribute to legends!

(Jon Davis – piano; Boris Kozlov – bass; Mark Ferber – drums)

Jon Davis’ fourth release for Posi-Tone, Happy Juice is a ten-track showcase split evenly with original compositions and covers. The musical contexts suggest an association with the dynamic jazz piano movement of the 60’s. In particular, Davis is paying tribute to his personal heroes, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. The opening title cut is a bluesy swinger that starts with some punctuated chord runs. The rhythm section (Boris Kozlov – bass/Mark Ferber – drums) is flawless and support the vibrant piano solos. “Slant Six” (another Davis-penned opus) has some underlying, pronounced grooves and utilizes up tempo chords, soulful notation and pulsating elegance. The first cover is the haunting Bill Evans classic, “The Two Lonely People”. Like Evans, Davis explores the melancholic sentiment and then at 1:37 slips into a supple groove that radiates with warmth and complexity.

The second “cover’ is a latin-tinged version of Chick Corel’s “Tones For Joan’s Bones”. Davis’ gliding lyricism and awe-inspiring tempo development is potent. His piano leads are agile and never predictable. As he takes on Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like A Child”, it seems like the pianist is hitting on all cylinders. There is a ruminative opening that flows seamlessly into a medium swing vibe that bristles with creative phrasing. There are different jazz elements, including pulsating undercurrents and rhythm potency, along with meditative shadings. On Tyne’s evocative “Search For Peace”, Davis adopts a swaying tempo and understated elegance that would make the Philadelphia legend quite proud. The melodic structure always centers the arrangement. The final cover is Keith Jarrett’s “Rainbow”. It is whimsical, but has an aspirational resonance to it. Then at the 0:55 mark it morphs into a gentle near-waltz time signature. The jazzy notation is dynamic.

There are compelling original compositions. “As We Know” approximates gospel with soulful inflections. But there are many agile flourishes. “Bred On Red” (a reference to Red Garland) begins with an ethereal intro, but employs a finger-snapping medium groove with sprightly accents and syncopation. Davis’ compositions draw on rhythm complexities. That is rewarding on “Mostly Minor”. This might be the most improvisational number, and the piano runs are intriguing, reminiscent of the unbridled freedom of the era of jazz explored on this album.

Happy Juice is a fitting tribute to piano legends like Evans, Hancock, Tyner, Corea and Jarrett. Davis covers their material and draws on their inspiration in his own compositions. The audio on this recording is excellent. The exacting detail of the piano and drum cymbals is palpable. The bass is kept in the bottom of the mix.

Happy Juice; Slant Six
The Two Lonely People
As We Know
Tones ForJoan’s Bones
Bred On Red
Speak Like A Child
Search For Peace
Mostly Minor

—Robbie Gerson

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