N. Glenn Davis: N. Glenn Davis (drums); Dave Sterner (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Jack Schantz (trumpet, flugelhorn); Mark Soskin (piano); Dean Johnson (acoustic bass).
Personnel: Jack Schantz (trumpet, flugelhorn).
Additional personnel: Phil Woods (alto saxophone).
Liner Note Author: Ken Dryden .
Recording information: Red Rock Recording (08/12/2008).
Arranger: N. Glenn Davis.
As mainstream jazz drummers go, N. Glenn Davis plays with the strong, controlled, steady hands of a blackjack dealer, and as the experienced, savvy veteran he is. There's little doubt he's keyed in on bop, hard bop, and modern straight-ahead sounds, based on his lesson planning many years ago as a student of the late, great Boston drummer Alan Dawson. For this, his second album as a leader, Davis has assembled a very professional crew, with the excellent but underrated big-band trumpeter Jack Schantz, saxophonist Dave Sterner, veteran bassist Dean Johnson, and the incomparable pianist Mark Soskin. Except for two standards, all the other tracks are composed and arranged by the drummer, setting him apart from most other timekeepers of the music. The style and stance of trumpeter Tom Harrell is heard in this music, an ultra-melodic, lilting, and fresh sound that is immediately attractive, tuneful, and bright without being blinding. Former Harrell running mate, veteran alto saxophone master Phil Woods appears on three cuts, furthering the professional grade of this finely crafted music. At their happiest, "Wakin' Up Blues" could have easily been the lead track, as it identifies the exuberance and positive attitude this band exudes through the whole date. "Just a Tadd" reflects the Cleveland, OH roots of Davis, a merry tribute to legendary arranger Tadd Dameron in a straight bop framework with Woods. "A Different Day" comes right at you with solid hard bop writing in the incorporation of all three horns, "Come Right In" showcases the jaunty alto sax of Sterner, the steaming lead trumpet of Schantz, some wonderful harmonies, and the bluesy piano of Soskin, while the light, Latin-tinged "Fumba Rumba" again features Sterner, but on a David Liebman-sounding soprano sax, just slightly strained in his inflections. Woods is most expressive and expectedly masterful on his third cameo, "If You Could See Me Now," usually rendered as a ballad, but here taken out of the box in midtempo. Tracks that reflect Harrell's vision include the basic, breezy, bossa nova track "Warm Smile" with Schantz up front; a tribute to one of Davis's children, "Alex's Song," in a memorable melodic and evenly paced song structure; and "Minor Back-Up," with its spirited, singing tones so much a part of trumpeter Tom Harrell's vision. Soskin is impressive throughout as he always is, not quite ever getting the recognition he deserves in the main, but well thought of and allowed here to sow his oats. There's one trio-only track, a relaxed, slightly animated version of the impressionistic Bill Evans evergreen "Time Remembered" where one can clearly understand the brilliance Soskin commands, in most part tastefully holding his cards close to the vest in order to take command of the beauty the piano is capable of. This is truly a fine recording, one that will please any mainstream jazz listener, while also proffering the idea that this straight-ahead traditional well is far from dry in terms of new ideas, and the continuance of its legacy. It's in good hands with Davis, Woods, Soskin, and his very capable cohorts. ~ Michael G. Nastos