Steve Davis – For Real – Posi-Tone PR8116, 58:09 ****:
(Steve Davis – trombone; Abraham Burton – tenor sax; Larry Willis – piano; Nat Reeves – bass; Billy Williams – drums)
Steve Davis is one dependable cat. We’ve previously reviewed many of his prior CD issues, and they all hit the mark. Going back to Alone Together in 2007, to the more recent Eloquence (on JLP), and Images and Gettin’ It Done (on Posi-Tone), the sense of swing and polished presentation is always there. Davis is an integral member of the new millenium’s version of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s, One for All. His solo projects, usually containing his own compositions, are eagerly anticipated by fans of hard bop.
Steve’s pedigree is first rate, having been mentored by Jackie McLean, and serving on the last version of Blakey’s Messengers from 1989 to 1990, before Art’s passing. He has taught at the Hartt College of Music, where his studies brought him in contact with Jackie Mac.
On his latest CD, For Real, his pairing with tenor saxist Abraham Burton, strongly brings to mind the Jazz Crusaders’ sax and ‘bone masters, Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson. On the opening title track, they totally nail the funk and “grease” of the Crusaders appeal. With long time accompanist, the brilliant pianist Larry Willis bringing gospel tinged piano fills, it’s a great way to set the stage for what is to come. On “Nicky D” Steve Davis’ burnished tone kicks into a nice groove that the rhythm section supports. “Angie’s Groove” shows off the ensemble blending that One for All does so well. They are locked in until Willis, and then Steve, and Burton take center stage. “Days Gone By” is a mellow ballad that will showcases Abraham Burton’s lyrical skills matched by Davis’ ability to enter the realm of JJ Johnson as a balladeer.
“Blues on Blues” is just that. Written by Larry Willis, it is manna from heaven for those that love soul jazz. “Tactics” is more assertive, and the closer, “Daylight” lets the group explore a Latinesque tinge, with Billy Williams’ percussion providing the propulsion to keep the juices flowing.
Kudos again go out to Posi-Tone’s main men: producer Marc Free, and engineer Nick O’Toole, for bringing supreme acoustics that help Davis and Company strut their stuff. Steve Davis is definitely “for real.”
TrackList: For Real, Nicky D, Angie’s Groove, Days Gone By, Big East, Blues on Blues, Tactics, I Found You, Daylight