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March 2008

Bob DeVos
Playing for Keeps
Savant

Playing for Keeps finds veteran guitarist Bob DeVos playing to his strengths once again, favoring the kind of Hammond B3 grooves that he mastered while collaborating with Trudy Pitts, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland and other great jazz organists. No question: DeVos sounds perfectly at home here.

“The spiritual source” of inspiration for this 10-tune set, writes DeVos in the album’s liner notes, is the Larry Young/Grant Green/Elvin Jones ’60s trio, but the guitarist’s own three-piece combo, augmented on four cuts by tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, covers a lot of ground, making nods along the way to Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Eddie Harris, even Booker T. & the MGs.

Highlights? A brush-stroked, triple-meter take on “Body and Soul” certainly makes the cut, with its Coltrane-inspired contours and soulful lyricism. (Credit Alexander for much of the latter.) The album’s opening and closing tracks also qualify: “And So It Goes” offers a modal framework for a series of swift and swinging improvisations by Alexander, DeVos and organist Dan Kostelnik, while “Wes Is More,” the DeVos-penned tribute to Montgomery, provides a smoking, riffing blues coda.

Elsewhere, DeVos’ impressionistic ballad “Speech Without Words” surfaces amid trio arrangements that showcase the bandleader’s unmistakable flair for arranging. Particularly enjoyable are the trio’s fluid and foot-tapping version of McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner,” nimbly punctuated by drummer Steve Johns, and the sensuous, insinuating recital of Monk’s “Ask Me Now.”

Originally published in March 2008
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