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John Daversa: Artful Joy

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The Los Angeles jazz scene has a briskness, muscularity and cosmopolitanism to it that trumpeter and composer John Daversa has absorbed by osmosis. Though he’s toured internationally, the California native never strayed far from his Hollywood home base. He studied at UCLA, CalArts and the University of California before launching his career in the late ’90s. On his third album as a leader, Daversa continues cultivating that clean, electric studio sound-a sensibility that has put him in collaboration with Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and Yellowjackets. But his classical composition background allows him to expand the borders of West Coast jazz harmonically and rhythmically.

Yellowjacket Bob Mintzer is featured on “Rhythm Changers,” a fast-paced jaunt through the familiar harmonic terrain of “Oleo”; wait for the virtuosic trading section between Daversa and Mintzer, who gives a resonant, tour de force performance on bass clarinet. The tune ends with a half-time solo stride piano coda that gives way to a thrilling restatement of the melody line. “Hara Angelina” is a Pat Metheny-inflected odd-meter piece featuring vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

“C’mon, Robby Marshall” showcases saxophonist Marshall, a fellow Los Angeleno, in a freewheeling departure from the rest of the album, taking a New Orleans-style stomp to its screaming logical conclusion. “Players Only” mines the psychedelic territory of Bitches Brew until resolving itself into a funky, upbeat unison horn line more characteristic of Boney James. “Flirty Girl” takes the tempo down a notch and extracts as much sex appeal from a behind-the-beat shuffle as a Los Angeles band possibly can. Daversa being a faculty member at California State University, Northridge, the steamy influence of the San Fernando Valley is unavoidable.

Originally Published