Chris Davis: Baile Bonita (2010)
Just over a year ago in 2009, trumpeter Chris Davis debuted at Vancouver's Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club and was captured on the Cellar Live label. A Night Remembered launched the recording career of a fine young musician who had moved northwest of the border, from Florida. Davis displayed the broad, round tonal legacy of Fats Navarro and the curvilinear harmonics of Clifford Brown, even as he was a singular voice with a burnished tone and a way with making his musical statements dart like sharp arrows aimed straight at the soul. On his superb follow-up, Baile Bonita, Davis shows that he is unfazed by the much heralded critical acclaim with which his debut was received.
On Baile Bonita, Davis is more circumspect tonally, working to create his characteristic broad palette of sound by simply pitching his brass horn in counterpoint with New York phenomenon Ian Hendrickson-Smith's alto saxophonea blues hound who bays loudly and plaintively at Davis' trumpet as the two skitter and swagger through the charts. Wilbur Harden "West 42nd Street," a chart that immortalized the harder edged side of New York's theatre district, is a classically molded blues, where both Davis and Hendrickson-Smith carve the air in sustained bursts of contrapuntal wailing characterizes the brawny blues that Davis and his alto-toting partner are capable of turning out. Hendrickson-Smith's own chart, "All That Glitters" is another fine example of the album's bluesier side.
Davis also brings much color to this set by ringing in the changes with some folksy Latin sashaying on the title track, after a traditional baila where the trumpeter makes his mark as a percussionist, playing superbly on congas. On "Iniquity," the rhythm gets even more complex and, although the conga percussion is not present here, there are interesting shifts in rhythm, wrought by Davis and Hendrickson-Smith along with bassist Adam Thomas and the indefatigable drumming of Jesse Cahill. The bassist also contributes a fine chart in waltz-time, "Walk InThe Rain," which features a much subdued Davis working his muted horn in and out and around the brush-strokes of Cahill's drumming.
Davis stretches monumentally on his wonderful and sinewy "He Be Struttin,'" and in doing so shows a funkier side to his playing compared to the otherwise boppish sensibility that he dances with more often than not. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the trumpeter appears to have opened himself to the street-wise hip-hop that seems to tug at his sleeve every now and then when he solos. This flashy, contemporary pirouetting gives Davis a kind of completeness that he appeared to shy away from on his earlier album. His willingness to push the envelope is a welcome sign that the trumpeter is open to a broader rhythmic inflection in his playing, although there is more than sufficient evidence to suggest that the rounded edge of bebop rhythms is more alluring to him this time round as well.
Track Listing: Sweetie Pie; West 42nd Street; All That Glitters; Baile Bonita; You Dig; Iniquity; Walk In The Rain; He Be Struttin'; King of Hearts.
Personnel: Chris Davis: trumpet, percussion; Ian Hendrickson-Smith: alto saxophone; Adam Thomas: acoustic bass; Jesse Cahill: drums.