Steve Davis Quartet: Systems Blue

You can hear the influence of Carl Fontana on Steve Davis’ fifth album for Criss Cross, Systems Blue. Uptempo tracks such as “Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” “If I Love Again” and particularly the jet-propelled “My Old Flame” reveal a thinking man’s trombonist. His ideas are well structured and his tone is pure velvet, as exhibited on the ballad “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” But there is something missing: a level of excitement commensurate with his technique. Davis fronts an excellent rhythm section but their efforts, even the intense walking of bassist Peter Washington, can’t seem to light a constant fire under Davis. Speaking of Washington, one of the most successful tracks is his duo effort with Davis on “Three and One.” Some sparks are induced during two guest appearances by altoist Mike DiRubbo on “Spirit Waltz” and the title tune, but nothing of the intensity of “My Old Flame.”