Saturday, December 13, 2014

Charles Davis For the Love of Lori

With a six decade career that includes associations with such iconic artists as Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sun Ra, Ben Webster, Kenny Dorham, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, Illinois Jacquet, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Ahmad Jamal, John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, Cedar Walton, Sam Jones, Billy Higgins and countless others, Charles Davis has not recorded as frequently as a leader as his talent as a saxophonist, composer and arranger merited. Perhaps best known as a baritone saxophonist, he is on tenor sax on his new recording “For the Love of Lori” (Reade Street Records). On this session he is joined by a superb band that includes pianist Rick Germanson; trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, trombonist Steve Davis; bassist David Williams and drummer Neil Smith.

The Lori, on the beautiful title track, is his late wife Lori Samet-Davis who passed away and the beautiful ballad is one way of his coping with the loss. His wife’s passing was not the only loss Davis suffered as his long-time musical collaborator, Cedar Walton, was supposed to be on this recording but passed away prior to the September 2013 recording date so Rich Germanson replaced him while Walton’s long-time bassist Williams helps anchor this album along with the marvelous drummer, Neil Smith.

The wonderful opening selection “Beques” displays the authority of the ensemble, whether soling or playing as an ensemble. Davis’ arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?” provides a lazy feel and after Davis states the theme on tenor, Magnarelli mades judicious use of a mute before Steve Davis masterful solo which is one of the album’s many pleasures. Julian Priester’s “Juliano” is a bright swinger as Steve Davis swings gruffly followed by Magnarelli’s forceful trumpet that segues into the leader’s robust tenor as the rhythm section pushes the performance along (Germanson takes a well conceived solo as well). It is followed by the leader’s salute to Kenny Dorham, “KD” that spotlights Magnarelli’s lyrical and driving playing.

Charles Davis warmth, strength and lyricism as a ballad player is evident on the title track while Smith’s drumming is wonderful in adding embellishments under the solos and the ensemble portions. In addition to his wonderful playing, Germanson contributed the arrangement for the first-rate hard bop rendition of Cedar Walton’s “Cedar’s Blues,” which also allows him to stretch out with the first solo over Williams walking bass line and Smith’s subtle rhythmic accents. The closing “I'll Be Seeing You” is a nicely paced and wistful rendition of this standard.

From the loss of his soul mate and a close friend, Charles Davis has found the strength to bring together the excellent band and music that makes “For The Love of Lori” such a delightful and marvelous hard bop recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Charles Davis in performance.

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