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Dave Ellis: State of Mind

State of Mind, Dave Ellis’ third album as a leader, continues to demonstrate why the CD’s producer, Orrin Keepnews, is so high on the San Francisco-area tenorist. Not beholden to any particular predecessor but showing the influences of several-including some of the great hard-bop tenorists, early John Coltrane and Michael Brecker-Ellis projects a bold, expressive tone and demonstrates an agile but surefooted sense of swing. The album features two stellar rhythm sections, both anchored by the extraordinary pianist Mulgrew Miller. The five tracks recorded in California feature Christian McBride on bass and Lewis Nash on drums; the five New York cuts use bassist Peter Washington and drummer Carl Allen. Altoist Vincent Herring joins the New York crew on three numbers.

The program includes such varied fare as Charlie Parker’s Caribbean-influenced blues “Barbados,” the Ellington-Strayhorn ballad “Something to Live For” (where Ellis’ mournful reading of the melody evokes Coltrane’s ballad style), Coltrane’s charging “Grand Central,” Horace Silver’s gentle “Peace” and a pair of Ellis originals. The classic “Summertime” attracts special attention with a fascinating reharmonization and attendant melodic modifications, courtesy of Noel Jewkes.

Ellis creates fresh-sounding, attention-getting improvisations within this familiar context and his colleagues are all first-rate. Cannonball Adderley fans will love Herring’s fiery contributions. And Miller consistently weaves attractive and logical melodic lines out of the least expected notes.

Originally Published