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John Daversa: Wobbly Dance Flower (BFM)

Review of album pairing trumpeter with saxophonist Bob Mintzer

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Cover of John Daversa album Wobbly Dance Flower
Cover of John Daversa album Wobbly Dance Flower

The pairing of trumpeter John Daversa and tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist Bob Mintzer on this small-group recording is a particularly inspired one. Both musicians customarily reside in the company of large-format ensembles, both are respected educators who manage to keep stifling formalism at a safe distance and, for what it’s worth, as the record’s press material points out, “Daversa is a West Coast native transplanted to the East. Conversely, Mintzer is an East Coast native transplanted to the West.” Their meetup seems inevitable but they get kudos off the bat for not taking the comfy big-band route and opting instead for something looser and freer. Wobbly Dance Flower (the title track was named by Daversa’s daughter) is never short on flouted chops while remaining playful (it would have to with another track titled “You Got a Puppy?!”).

Plainly, Daversa and Mintzer are having a grand old time bouncing off one another here, and while the other sextet members—guitarist Zane Carney, keyboardist Joe Bagg, bassist Jerry Watts Jr. and drummer Gene Coye—are afforded ample room to shine, there seems to be an implicit understanding that the tradeoffs by the two horn men are meant to be front and center. That’s apparent in the first seconds of opener “Ms. Turkey,” not so much a call-and-response as a do-what-I-do, and it remains present throughout. When the entire group is fired up, as on the Monk-like “Be Free” and the swinging title track, they’re airtight; Bagg’s Hammond B-3, meanwhile, adds a soulfulness to Daversa originals like  “Meet Me at the Airport” and “Jazz Heads.” On the subtly unfolding “Brooklyn Still,” the rare occasion when the temperature and tempo cool down, the group unveils added depth that one hopes they might explore further should they record a sequel.

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