Steve Davis, Bluesthetic Review
by Jeff Becker
Steve Davis has released his latest album titled Bluesthetic, featuring a sextet with a three-decade shared history of guitarist Peter Bernstein, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Willie Jones III. “Recording this album was kind of like a family reunion,” Davis says. “It was an absolute joy to have this whole group together.” The album title, Bluesthetic, comes from a combination of the appreciation of artful beauty suggested by “aesthetic” combined with the foundational influence of the blues. “With my music, the blues is always going to find its way in there,” Davis explains. “I’m never going to stray too far from having some element of that language. I can’t help it; it’s what I love. And it definitely represents how this particular band approaches jazz music.”
“Encouragement” opens the album and sets the tone of the performances. The melody is memorable, polished, and refined, as one would expect from these seasoned musicians. Davis’ deft and detailed handling of his improvised melodies are enjoyable and swing. The three chordal instruments in the ensemble add to the sonics, with each taking a turn accompanying and soloing. The ensemble has a depth of swing and intimacy that lends itself to closer listening. A full-bodied selection for the album’s first movement, inspiring more analytical listening.
“Maybe So” makes a crisp impact as the ensemble’s effortless dexterity shines. The solos are short, allowing for more solo space for the individual in the group. Each soloist exudes control of melodic shape while exploring the swing pocket. Davis’s trombone sound is warm and round and has a purity of tone. The trading of solos at the end of the form is a fun moment to hear the ensemble interact and celebrate their shared respect.
Bluesthetic is an album of suave interplay between an outstanding ensemble of like-minded performers, proving to be a rewarding collaboration. The playing is fun to hear and is a fine collection of tunes overall, and straight-ahead jazz fans should investigate Bluesthetic further.