Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dave Shank Quintet: Soundproof

Rhombus Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Soundproof

Dave Shank is living proof of a valuable adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try it a different way. He began his musical career in high school, as a trumpeter — as he puts it, “not a very good one” — so he switched to vibes. It was the best move he ever made.

After a stint in the armed forces, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in theory and composition at the University of Nevada. He then spent most of his early professional years playing for headline acts on the Las Vegas strip, and performing with local jazz groups. He moved to Los Angeles and worked with the likes of Quincy Jones and others, and in bands supporting name acts such as Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Linda Ronstadt and Bette Midler. Shank also joined guitarist Tim Weston’s jazz quintet Wishful Thinking.

After relocating to New York City, Shank worked extensively on Broadway but nonetheless found time for other projects; you can here his vibes on the Steely Dan album Two Against Nature.

The best indication of how highly Shank is regarded by his fellow artists is the cadre that joined him for this album: bassist John Patitucci, pianist Barry Miles, drummer Terry Silverlight, and saxman Mike Migliore.

As for the result ... this is one of the swinging-est groups I’ve heard in a long time, and that applies to both the up-tempo and ballad charts.

Which brings me to Shank’s second major talent: He composed and arranged all the tracks on this album. True, he uses chord sequences and structures from several old standards in a couple of tunes — “Come Rain or Come Shine” becomes “Fair or Foul,” while “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” morphs into “Some Nice” — but the melodic lines are totally different.

Significant attention has been paid to each artist: Migliore and Shank compliment each other beautifully on the title track; Patitucci and Miles own “Alla Brevity”; Silverlight moves into the spotlight on “Last Resort”; and Shank’s vibe work is key to “Snoopin.’ ” Behind it all is the truly great rhythm section: You need only hear Patitucci’s first bar to realize that he’s one of the top bassists working today. Miles’ piano, both as backup and solo, is stellar; and Silverlight’s tasty drumming holds it all together.

Don’t miss this album; it really grooves.

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