Thursday, May 27, 2010

Steve Davis

Steve Davis (trombone; b. 1967)
Dig Deep (Criss Cross)
Jim Rotundi (trumpet)
Eric Alexander (sax)
David Hazeltine (piano)
Nat Reeves (bass)
Joe Farnsworth (drums)

Steve Davis is regarded in the jazz scene as the heir-apparent to Curtis Fuller and J.J. Johnson. He is also one of the co-founding members of the sextet, One For All. Davis has the great distinction of performing in the final Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and Jackie McLean lineups as well as with Chick Corea's Origin Sextet. Bold, confident and expressive are all the things one will say after listening to a Steve Davis record.

Steve Davis has recorded over 15 albums to his name but the one that I wanted to focus on is his third album, Dig Deep (Criss Cross; 1997).

A few weeks ago I was doing my unfortunate/fortunate rummaging through used record stores for little gems. I found Dig Deep on that day and it made my eyes pop out of my head. And it was four dollars (US)!

Dig Deep is from what I can tell the first actually studio recording of the One For All band. This is significant in that up to this point they had only been performing live. Davis captures that live energy and the early unity of the band perfectly on this record. Dig Deep is fluid and diverse with the majority of the album written by Davis but each member contributes solid interplay and solo work throughout. It is a brilliant record documenting One For All in their early stages. At this point the most well known in the group was Eric Alexander. But everyone here is in crisp, solid form and up to the challenge. This a killer post hard bop date that pretty much anyone will enjoy.

The coolest thing about Dig Deep is the chemistry the band exudes. The opening track, aptly titled. "One For All," was written by Davis (originally when he was with The Jazz Messengers) is remarkably fresh, pounding and lively. The cover of "I Should Care" is beautiful and upbeat, featuring some incredible arrangements by David Hazeltine. In addition, another Davis penned number, "Payne's Window" is awesome and illustrates Davis great ability as band leader. The closing number, "Trippin'" is a barn-burner of a number at just over seven minutes. Joe Farnsworth and Eric Alexander really light up this piece and make it a perfect bookend to the opening track.

Dig Deep is definitely the first chapter in what would led to the long history for the entire group culminating a few more months later on the very first "official" One For All album. This a must have album even if you don't own a One For All album. It's a great modern hard bop date that is rare and hard to come by nowadays from most jazz groups. Seek it out. Indeed, sometimes when you find history no matter what genre you have to pick it up. You will regret it if you don't.

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