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AVAILABLE NOW: Steve Davis’ “Correlations”

AVAILABLE NOW on Smoke Sessions Records
Master Trombonist Steve Davis Debuts
Powerhouse New Sextet on Correlations
New Album Features Stellar Lineup Including
Wayne Escoffery, Joshua Bruneau, Xavier Davis,
Dezron Douglas and Jonathan Barber
Album Release Performances
March 7-9 at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
One of the most acclaimed trombonists of his generation, Steve Davis has been a member of some of jazz’s premiere ensembles: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Chick Corea’s Origins, the Jackie McLean Sextet, Benny Golson’s New Jazztet, the Christian McBride Big Band, and the all-star collective One For All. With Correlations, Davis introduces a powerhouse group all his own, a new multi-generational sextet that weaves together a thrilling new sound from myriad common threads.
Correlations, available now via Smoke Sessions Records, introduces the new band with a set of inspired new tunes and classic compositions from jazz masters who’ve pointed the way for Davis and his cohort to follow, galvanized by tradition but boldly pushing forward. That adventurousness is just one of the connections that binds these six artists together, one of many correlations that give the album and the sextet their name.
Such commonalities proved important, as the sextet as a whole had never worked together prior to the weekend at Smoke that preceded the recording. There was plenty of shared history between the individual members, however: Davis, trumpet and flugelhorn player Joshua Bruneau, saxophonistWayne Escoffery, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Jonathan Barber.
One of the primary correlations that binds these stellar musicians together is the mentorship of the legendary saxophonist and educator Jackie McLean, via the jazz studies program he founded at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. Davis, Douglas, and Escoffery all studied directly under McLean; Bruneau and Barber both entered the program later, with all four benefiting from the tutelage of Davis, who joined the faculty in 1991.
“Jackie instilled in us all the value of playing with fire and conviction,” Davis says. “He stressed the importance of keeping one foot in the past and one foot in the future, balancing the tradition and history with looking to do something that sounds fresh and special. All the guys in the band certainly embody those principles when they play.”
Xavier Davis (no relation) is the odd man out when it comes to educational background, but he still shares strong bonds with several members of the band, not least its leader. The two have worked together extensively in David Weiss’ New Jazz Composers Octet as well as the Christian McBride Big Band, while the pianist has played alongside Escoffery in trumpeter Tom Harrell’s band for many years and with both Escoffery and Douglas as part of the collective Black Art Jazz Collective.
“There are all kinds of musical relationships over many years between all of us,” says Davis. “So, while this actual band had never played together, I knew because of all the common roots that the chemistry was going to be great. And we really hit the ground running.”
They were given more than a little extra propulsion thanks to Davis’ exhilarating new compositions for the group. Having penned countless tunes and arrangements for McLean’s revered sextet as well as One For All and his own ensembles, Davis eloquently speaks the language of the three-horn frontline, and was newly inspired by the incredible one he’d assembled for this date.
“I’ve always tried to approach any band I’ve had over the years as our band,” the trombonist stresses. “Anything I write leaves plenty of room for everyone involved to help shape it. The three horns share a very natural camaraderie and simpatico, and the rhythm section is just magic. My job is just to provide the format, focus it with repertoire, and get out of the way and let it happen.”
Whether you consider Correlations in terms of key mentors, mutual inspirations, shared experiences or sympathetic outlooks, what’s most important is not the source of these connections but the bonds they’ve forged. With this superb new sextet, Steve Davis has assembled a band whose ties can bind in endlessly creative and vibrant new music.