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Orbert Davis: Blue Notes

In his mid-40s, Orbert Davis is a Chicago institution becom-ing more widely known elsewhere, in part through extra-curricular activities like arrang-ing music for the motion picture Road to Perdition. Still, he established himself as a gifted trumpeter. “The Day” in Davis’ composition “Back in the Day” may refer to December 21, 1963. That’s when Lee Morgan recorded “The Sidewinder.” Davis’ CD has that ’60s Blue Note feeling without wallowing in nostalgia or imitating specific players, although the fire, precision and power in his trumpet work on “Back in the Day” recall Morgan’s intensity. Davis is eloquent and intriguing on flugelhorn in his “Dear D’Lana” and “Glass Walls” and in Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin’.”

Davis gives Blue Notes a variety of moods, from the reflective title tune, nicely sung by Dee Alexander, to ripping sextet versions of Wayne Shorter’s “Hammer Head” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Shaw ‘Nuff,” the latter with Latin percussionists added. Tenor saxophonist Ari Brown, trombonist Tracy Kirk, bassist Stewart Miller and drummer Kobie Watkins make important contributions, but the player in addition to Davis who came as a revelation to me is pianist Ryan Cohan. As an accompanist and as a soloist with touches of Wynton Kelly, Cohan is impressive.

Originally Published