by John McBeath http://www.theaustralian.com.au
Angela Davis Quartet + Strings
Australian saxophonist Angela Davis recently returned to Australia from New York, where this, her second album, was recorded — following her 2013 debut, The Art of the Melody.
As with the earlier recording it features her quartet, but this time with an added string quartet, a mix that’s becoming the troupe du jour for many jazz groups. Nothing wrong with that, and this one is expertly arranged by Steve Newcombe. There are four originals and four standards including the title track, a Thad Jones composition with a smart piano solo from Dan Tepfer, as the alto floats away with the theme to introduce Linda Oh’s strong bass solo backed by the strings.
Jule Styne’s Make Someone Happy showcases Davis’s easy liquidity as she glides flawlessly through the theme and delivers a characteristically lyrical solo. Michel Legrand’s beautiful orchestral melody You Must Believe in Spring is well-suited to the strings introduction and to Davis’s hyper-mellow tonality as she lusciously outlines the melody, before another impressive piano passage.
Davis’s Hymn for the Lonely, a slow and sad ballad, features an expressive beginning from piano, bass and Richie Barshay’s drums heralding the alto’s melancholy entry with the commiserating and supporting strings. Another original, Nola’s Waltz, has an air of nostalgia given full rein by Davis’s honeyed tonality, and adds a faster-moving, inventive bass solo. A brighter, quicker, post-bop theme carries along A Thousand Feet from Bergen Street with Tepfer’s swinging piano solo leading into the leader’s melodic improvisation ahead of Oh’s galvanising exchanges with the drummer. An unexpected inclusion, the Christian hymn Abide with Me, is the closer, and features the alto working through a contrapuntal passage with the piano.