By jazz journalist, Dee Dee McNeil
John Daversa, trumpet/EVI; Bob Mintzer, tenor saxophone/bass clarinet/EWI; Zane Carney, guitar; Joe Bagg, piano/Hammond B3 organ; Jerry Watts, Jr., bass/U-bass; Gene Coye, drums.
Publicity notes describe Grammy-nominated artist, John Daversa as an internationally respected performer, trumpeter, EVI player, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader, educator and BFM Jazz recording artist. That’s quite a list of accolades, so I was eager to hear him play. I was not disappointed.
The very first cut, “Ms. Turkey” struts out the gate playfully and flies straight-ahead into the room. After Daversa sets the tone and tempo with his smooth, trumpet sound, Bob Mintzer joins in on tenor saxophone to solo. Joe Bagg adds Hammond B3 organ charm to the mix and as the chord changes climb the progressive ladder, the ensemble builds the energy to a fever pitch and pops the ending in our face like a champagne cork. The music bubbles with energy.
On the jazz standard, “Donna Lee” the ensemble settles into a blues shuffle, with Coye’s drums slapping the groove into place. After Daversa’s solo, the band doubles the time and enter Bob Mintzer on bass clarinet, flying around the disc with improvisational gusto. Joe Bagg takes a turn on piano, with Gene Coye continuously pushing the rhythm with flawless drums. Both tunes are a great way to start this CD and to introduce the listening audience to these masterful musicians. Bassist, Jerry Watts, Jr. locks horns with the drummer and they hold the rhythm solidly in place. Zane Carney’s guitar is a fluid rhythm throughout.
Daversa continues to play at the speed of sound, racing through the changes on “Be Free” until the rhythm suddenly turns down, from a hot boil to a slow stew. They retard the rhythm and the energy, creating an open effect for imaginations to run wild. It’s a bit Avant Garde and dissonant at times, in a pleasing kind of way. When Watts, Jr. starts walking his bass swiftly, the ensemble follows his pace. They continue to exhibit the title of this tune, being free with their improvisational skills. The melody reminds me a bit of the Thelonious Monk tune, “Rhythm-a-Ning”.
The CD’s title tune was named by Daversa’s six-year-old daughter. “Wobbly Dance Flower” is delightful of spirit and tone, challenging the music to march with a touch of Latin charm and big band flavor. This sextet has a big, bold sound on this tune. While Daversa seems to take great pleasure in exploring the full register of his instrument, Gene Coye is given free reins to let loose on his trap drums. He speeds away, like an untethered, wild horse.
John Daversa has won the Herb Alpert Award, the David Joel Miller Award and awarded winner of the Best in Show and Awards of Excellence in Creativity/Originality and Production in the Global Music Awards. He is currently the chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. This is his fifth album as a leader and I’m certain we will be hearing and enjoying many more to come.