Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Chris Cheek: Saturday Songs

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

A history of the pedal steel guitar in jazz wouldn’t make much of a book. Basically, no one besides Buddy Emmons, Speedy West and a handful of others has ever played anything remotely jazzy on the instrument. Maybe that’s because its twangy timbre is so closely associated with country music. In any case, that very foreignness to what we usually consider jazz must have had something to do with why tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek chose to hire Spanish pedal steel player David Soler for his new quintet. It’s a bold move that works like a charm.

Admittedly, things do sound a little wacky when Soler first swoops in on Saturday Songs’ opener, “String Finger,” but you can blame cultural conditioning for a good part of that reaction. Before long, all those plangent glissandi fit in just fine. It helps that Cheek has written a bunch of nifty zigzag melodies, like “Ginger Something” and “Bucky’s Blues,” that are often reminiscent of Steely Dan-a band fond of jazz changes and the pedal steel-but truth be told, Soler’s elastic comping sounds perfect on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Forever Green,” too, performing roughly the same role that a Hammond organ would.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published