Jazz trombonist Steve Davis released his new album, Bluesthetic, Friday through Smoke Sessions Records. His 21st (yes, 21st) record as a bandleader, it came more than three years after the release of his then latest album, Correlations (2019), which was also released through Smoke Sessions Records. The 10-song record is a presentation that any jazz fan will find enjoyable from beginning to end. One of the songs that serves well to make that clear comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘They Wore 44.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Indigo To Azure,’ which comes later, is another example of what makes this record so surprisingly engaging and entertaining. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Silver At Sunrise,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is yet another example of how much Davis’ latest album has to offer. It will also be discussed later. Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make Bluesthetic one of those rare albums that really has few if any skips and in turn proves itself to be among the best of the year’s new jazz albums.
Bluesthetic, the latest album from Steve Davis, is a strong new offering from the veteran jazz trombonist. That is proven throughout the course of the record’s 63-minute run time thanks to the various sounds and styles featured in each of its arrangements. ‘They Wore 44,’ which comes just past the album’s midpoint, is just one of the songs that serves to make that statement clear. According to the record’s liner notes, the song is a reference to various people with connected with the number 44: Hank Aaron, former President Barack Obama, and even Davis’ own father, who as he writes, wore the number 44 in his own college days. Additionally, Davis notes that 44 is also a reference to the address of his childhood home, 44 Crary Ave. in Binghamton, NY. In listening through the nearly nine-minute composition (eight minutes, 20 seconds to be exact), it is tough to make the connection, though the balance of the arrangement’s bluesy and jazz leanings between the bass line and piano does kind of give the composition a vintage sensibility. That is especially evident in the light vibraphone line and steady time keeping. The age in which Aaron, Davis’ father and other 44s came up did produce styles and sounds such as that exhibited here. Even the light guitar performance adds its own touch from that era. To that end, maybe Davis himself heard similar styles and sounds in his own childhood, and thus, led him to incorporate so much of those influences into this fully immersive, engaging and entertaining work. The whole makes the song overall its own unique presentation within the album that is certain to engage and entertain audiences just as much as any of the album’s other works.
Speaking of those other works, the album has plenty of other notable entries, not the least of which comes in the form of ‘Indigo To Azure.’ According to Davis’ notes, the song is meant to illustrate the thoughts and emotions that we all go through as we try to navigate life’s more difficult moments in hopes of getting to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. What is so interesting is that considering Davis’ explanation of the arrangement and its mood, it is not the melancholy composition that one might expect. Rather, it presents more of an optimistic mood through Davis’ performance on the trombone. The subtle use of the piano line and the brushes on the snare and the even more subtle bass line makes the song so appealing in its less is more approach. It is certain to succeed in Davis’ goal of reflecting the feeling of getting through those more difficult moments in life. To that end, its distinct stylistic variance and sound in comparison to that of ‘They Wore 44’ and its inspiration collectively make it stand out just as much as reason for audiences to hear this record. It is certainly not the last of the album’s other notable entries. ‘Silver At Sunrise,’ which comes much earlier in the album’s run, is yet another of those notable entries.
‘Silver At Sunrise’ is as different from the other songs examined here as they are from one another and from the album’s other songs. In the case of this composition, the jazz leaning is clearly there, led by its piano line. Davis comes in to add more flare very quickly, though. The truly interesting thing here is that while Davis makes no mention of Taio Cruz, Davis’ trombone line here continuously throws back to Cruz’s hit 2020 single, ‘Dynamite.’ His line and the equally funky guitar line here add even more to the song’s distinct identity. Interestingly enough, the whole is meant to be a musical tribute to jazz pianist Horace Silver and the Hartford, Connecticut jazz community. Even with that being the case, the song in whole stands just as distinctly apart from the other songs featured in the album and from the songs examined here. At the same time, it also proves just as unique in its sound, style and inspiration as those other works. Keeping that in mind, it is one more clear example of what makes Bluesthetic such an enjoyable work. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s works, the whole of that content makes clear why Bluesthetic is a fully engaging and entertaining work.
Steve Davis’ latest album, Bluesthetic, is a strong new offering from the veteran jazz trombonist. That is proven throughout the album in each of its various musical arrangements, whose styles and sounds boast their own unique identity. The songs examined here make that clear. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes the album overall one more of the year’s top new jazz albums.
Bluesthetic is available now. More information on the record is available along with all of Steve Davis’ latest news at:
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