Trombonist Steve Davis continues to prove that unadulterated post-modern bop can still be an invigorating listening pleasure. On his third record, he features veteran pianist Harold Mabern with sparkling results, especially on the rhapsodic “Old Folks,” where Mabern gracefully prances in the background while accompanying heartfelt solos from Davis and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. Alto saxophonist,Mike DiRubbo is the other highlight. DiRubbo crafts a terse, white-hot sound that’s directly linked to Davis’ former mentor, Jackie McLean. He also has a quicksilver fluidity and bluesy swagger that well demonstrated on the brisk burnout “From the Inside Out.” Drummer Joe Farnsworth and Nat Reeves propels the three-horn foil with gazelle-like agility that never intrudes on voicing from the horn section or Mabern’s playing. Davis sometimes sounds more like an ensemble member than a leader, but that may very well contribute to the overall sound, which places as much emphasis on group empathy as it does on boastful solos. But somehow that’s still a disadvantage because Davis has a beautiful tone, deft technique, and an undeniable sense of swing that deserves more challenging material, or better stated, more challenging situations. Blemishes aside, Crossfire is a delight.
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