By Bill Falconer
Every now and then I happen upon a CD by a player with a strong local reputation, who deserves to be heard more, and heard of more, in the rest of the world. This is one of those times. The musician is David Sills who couples a Getz-like tenor sound with a knack for writing engaging melodies. Down The Line is his second release as a leader and for Origin. His LA-based quintet is drawn from the best in the west and includes Gary Foster on alto, guitarist Larry Koonse, and Alan Broadbent on piano. Putter Smith on bass and drummer Tom Pleasant round out the rhythm section. Foster, a fine alto player and a veteran of the studios, is an equal front-line partner throughout.
The session is creative and cool, any way you wish to define that term. The group is very much together, and the program is a well-selected mix of originals and standards. In his languid and thoughtful solo on “Never Let Me Go” Sills displays his affinity for melody even as he moves away from the original. Broadbent’s comping is sympathetic and his solos exquisite as you might expect. Koonse is eloquent on Jobim’s ” If You Never Come to Me” while Sam Rivers’ lightly swinging “Beatrice” give the bass and drums a chance to shine. Sills displays his agility on flute while the band lays down a groove on “Bag’s Groove” that would have the composer nodding in appreciation. “Harlequin,” a wistful contribution by Koonse, shows him to be as fine a writer as he is a player while Broadbent’s “Time Line” bops right along.
The five Sills’ originals demonstrate his versatility and the empathy between him and Foster whether playing off one another or playing as one. This is particularly true of “Cuttin’ Back,” which builds on a strong bass figure, and the bopper, “It’s All You,” with its contrapuntal sax duet. The title cut frees the group to romp through those “Rhythm” changes. Beautiful interplay on the soulful “Slow Joe” (Sills and Broadbent) and the Latin-tinged “Eastern View” (Sills and Koonse).
Solid musicianship without showboating. I hope that the quintet stays intact and that Down The Line and this review help David Sills get the recognition he deserves.