By JACK BOWERS,
Published: September 1, 2002
Naxos’ press release calls tenor saxophonist David Sills “a unique composite of Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and Warne Marsh.” Not much pressure on that young man’s shoulders, is there? Well, if Sills is feeling any pressure on Bigs, his second album for Naxos, it’s never apparent; in fact, he’s as loose and unflappable as Steve Irwin, television’s zealous crocodile hunter, who never flinches no matter how imminent the danger. While the ghosts of Getz and Henderson are always close at hand during Sills’ tasteful locutions, there are few if any traces of Marsh’s eccentric spirit. But two out of three ain’t bad, and Sills adds splashes of Harry Allen, Bob Cooper and Spike Robinson to help brighten the canvas. The guy’s a player, no question about that. Knows how to choose his sidemen too; they don’t come much better than Koonse, Broadbent, Oles and La Barbera. The ensemble meshes together like hand in glove, and every solo voice is crisp and eloquent. Much of the program consists of original compositions (three by Sills, two by Broadbent, one each by Koonse and Victor Lewis) complemented by Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Zingaro,” the standard “I’m Glad There Is You” and Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To?” from the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd. Although there are some frisky moments (Sills’ “Shark-eez” and “Grunions,” Broadbent’s “Waiting for Charlie”), the accent is clearly on close group interplay within a framework that prizes beauty above bravado. Even at its sassiest, this is music that is never less than winsome. In other words, one can’t help deriving pleasure from it. Koonse and Broadbent, not to mention Sills, are consistently impressive, while Oles and LaBarbera keep flawless time while staying out of everyone else’s space. Sills may not embody the second coming of Getz, Henderson and Marsh, but he’s a superlative player in his own right, and Bigs is a splendid album, well-recorded, generously timed (70:40) and warmly recommended.