If further proof were needed that purism among jazz musicians is a thing of the past, this lineup should seal the argument. Vibraphonist Dave Shank and his colleagues—saxophonist Mike Migliore, pianist Barry Miles, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Terry Silverlight—have worked with everyone from Maynard Ferguson and the Basie Orchestra through Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea to John Scofield, David Sanborn and even Spyro Gyra (to say nothing of Shank’s gigs with Frank Sinatra and pop idols like Luther Vandross and Linda Ronstadt).
What they deliver here, though, is straight-ahead swing, often tautened by astringent harmonies and bop-like rhythmic risk-taking. “Muscular delicacy” might be the appropriate term to describe the feel: There’s plenty of ensemble playing, both unison and improvised, but so unerring is the communication that things never sound cluttered or overly busy. Migliore employs gnarled, George Adams-like flurries on his tenor; on soprano, he avoids both syrup and new-agey preciousness, crafting sharply delineated lines that impel through, over and under the frameworks his compatriots provide. Shank and Miles emphasize their instruments’ dual melodic and rhythmic roles, as does bassist Patitucci, both when soloing and when establishing a rhythmic foundation. Silverlight coaxes as much as he goads or impels; his brushwork (as on the arresting ballad “Darkening”) is simultaneously enveloping and propulsive.
The playfulness of offerings like “Fair or Foul” (a reimagined “Come Rain or Come Shine”) and the boppish “Alla Brevity” contrasts more meditative (but no less uplifting) fare such as the aforementioned “Darkening” and the closing piano/bass/drums trio outing, “Miss M,” which invokes a Bill Evans-like romanticism but is realized with so much improvisational focus that it’s bracing instead of cloying. This set is accessible yet challenging enough, both musically and emotionally, to satisfy listeners of diverse tastes.