By C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 1, 1999
A Melting Pot of Styles. In the liner notes to his debut, David Sills states, “I want my playing to be representative of earlier styles, say the ’50s and ’60s and taking it from there into my own direction, make it reflective of today, modern”. I buy that. From the head of Lenny Tristano’s “317 East 32nd Street” I felt encouraged that this would be a well-behaved mainstream outing by the 28 year old tenor player. I was right. Supported by bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and guitarist Larry Koonse of the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet ( Look to the East Naxos Jazz 86029-2) along with former Bill Evans drummer Joe La Barbera and pianist Alan Broadbent, late of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, Sills quietly thrills on this collection of originals and standards and not so standard standards.
Two Getz You Four. Yes, Mr. Sills has listened to a good bit of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson (it’s about time someone cited him as an influence!). But what I hear is a beautiful Stan Getz spirit and tone. Not simply imitation, but an essence like fine cologne that lingers. But, Getz is not all I hear. I detect the great Warne Marsh, some Lee Konitz and a smidgen of Paul Desmond and Early Art Pepper (regardless of sax register). Sills has a warm, full-bodied, obedient tone and playing mode. His compositions and arrangements smack of the ’50s West Coast Jazz of Bill Perkins, Shorty Rogers, and Bud Shank, strained through the ’80s and ’90s filter of Joe Henderson.
Conversin’ With The Elders. Indeed, Sills represents his influences with “Soul Eyes” (a long-time Getz vehicle), “Inner Urge” (one of Henderson’s best compositions, second only to “Isotope”). Sills adds his own compositions, in the vein of his influences. “Mai Lien” is melodically angular like the Tristano opener and “The Ho Chi Minh Hustle” is appealingly complex, more of that West Coast Cool. No vibrato, only clean, well-enunciated notation. Lester Young evolution with an edge.
Naxos Jazz continues to release better and better music. Considering that they started with superb music and musicians to begin with, I am excited to see where the music and company are going. I have listened to enough, that I find myself preferring the challenge of the music Naxos Jazz is bringing to the market place when compared to the major labels. David Sills recording is just my cup of tea, and Naxos Jazz has many other appealing blends.