Jeff Denson Live
Bassist, singer, composer Jeff Denson returns with his seventh album as a leader – his first live outing. And what a band. What a set of tunes. What a delight.
Saxophonist Lyle Link, drummer Dillon Vado and pianist Dahveed Behroozi get deep inside these tunes with Denson a mix of well-known covers (The Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Abbey Lincoln, Jeff Buckley) and five Denson originals.
His soaring voice is perfect for tackling Buckley and this set’s opener, Grace, is to my ears – and I get that this is sacrilege-speak – better than Buckley’s original. Big call too given it’s the title song of the own original album released in Buckley’s lifetime, such a signature song – but Denson is incredible here. And the Buckley-isms of his voice extend over to Have We Really Gone This Far which starts with tinkering improvisation from the musicians ahead of a phenomenal solo by Link and some fine supporting work from Behroozi’s piano, Denson’s own bass oozing with warmth beneath.
I’m less sure about the choice to cover Gabriel’s In Your Eyes – its opening piano passage is lovely, but Denson’s vocal arrangement here doesn’t work for me. That’s no real matter though because the song then folds in on itself and an origami swan of jazz emerges. The ensemble playing is just exquisite.
That’s true in fact of all of the covers here really – I’m not sure at all why Denson decided to tackle Fixing A Hole, in the scheme of things it’s one of the more obscure Beatles songs to cover and I don’t like the feel of it all. But when ‘the song’ finishes and the jam starts I’m lost instantly in the playing.
This album is worth it for the version of Grace alone, nearly. And certainly for the amazing drive of Denson’s bass work and Vado’s vibrant, dynamic drumming.
It’s a classy set of modern jazz – experimental enough in places, straight enough in others. And Denson remains a triple-threat as singer, composer and dynamite player. It’s a vital step on his journey and his band is absolutely killer her.
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