Steve Davis, Bluesthetic Review
By Sylvannia Garutch
Steve Davis’ latest album, Bluesthetic, features 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, describes the ten tracks beautifully in that the blues is a big part of the language of this ensemble. The album also explores greater harmonic possibilities with guitarist Peter Bernstein and vibraphonist Steve Nelson. In the process, he’s reunited the frontline from his 1998 album VIBE UP! for the first time in more than twenty years.
“Encouragement” opens the album and is a demonstration of the kind of familiarization this ensemble has with each other. This is also the key to the album; the soloists are supported with the innermost level of dedication to supporting the cohesive sound of the ensemble and soloist. Davis’ solo has protracted pacing until it reaches a lofty climax. McBride and Jones keep the feel alive and steady, giving the soloist the opportunity to play the most potent melodies and logical buildups. This is digestible jazz where each player contributes equal parts delivered with passionate energy.
“Faraway Dream” brings out the harmonic textures of the ensemble and is one of the many factors of its beauty. The first and most obvious one is Bernstein’s very creative guitar work. Davis’ melody playing is inspired by the melodic side of the jazz genre. The song has a gentle, lyrical flow with an inspiring chord progression. Bernstein performs a memorable solo and elevates the song with maximum listening during his accompaniment.
Bluesthetic builds on the ensemble’s camaraderie, which is the main factor behind the album’s success. The album contains an enjoyable flow of songs and expressive playing. However, if you listen carefully, many little extra details will reveal themselves in the overall performances. The strength of Davis as an ensemble leader and performer is especially impressive here. Additionally, he has created an atmosphere-invoking effect of an ensemble playing as a unit with a positive impact on the album’s flow.