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Steve Davis Quartet with Larry Willis: Alone Together

Davis has been compared to trombonists such as J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Carl Fontana and Curtis Fuller, but he’s really his own man, with a distinctive, rich sound, a relaxed style with just enough fire, and enough technique to meet any challenge. For his 10th CD as a leader, Davis is joined by pianist Larry Willis, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Eric McPherson-like Davis, all former Jackie McLean sidemen.

Davis excels in his stop-and-start exposition of “Milestones,” on which Willis contributes a quick-fingered solo replete with interesting ideas. For “My Foolish Heart,” the trombonist deepens his tone in a heartfelt treatment that is solely his, savoring the melody with little embellishment. “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” includes a spirited and imaginative Davis solo, and Willis also sparkles in his varied, ever-building solo. McPherson tastefully improvises here as well. Davis is forceful and inspired on “Alone Together,” and Willis delivers a solo typically full of unpredictable twists and turns of phrase. “We’ll Be Together Again” receives a graceful and tender interpretation.

“The Day You Said Goodbye” is an attractive Willis ballad that Davis essays with a luxuriously pure timbre that enhances the effectiveness of both his reflective solo and reading of the theme. Davis exhibits his confident dexterity on Wayne Shorter’s “United,” galloping through the changes, while Willis’ exciting solo is propelled by his solid left-hand accents. McPherson’s unrushed solo is highlighted by his subtle stick work. Willis impresses again on Strayhorn’s “Upper Manhattan Medical Group” with his ringing tones and deft phrasing, and Davis is absorbing with his pleasing and logical thematic variations. J.J. Johnson’s “Short Cake,” with its clever melody, moves Willis to perhaps his best and most exuberant improvisation of the date. Davis responds in kind with both passion and inventiveness.

Originally Published