For ten years or so, David Sills has been emerging as a tenor saxophonist with a knack for fashioning calm, cool improvised lines laced with melodic and harmonic interest. His tonal quality leads reviewers to make comparisons with Stan Getz and Lester Young. Based on his harmonic resourcefulness, unruffled execution and slightly dry sound, it would be just as easy to find similarities to Hank Mobley and Warne Marsh. But comparisons are weak vessels. Sills is no imitator.
In his new CD, Down The Line, he begins his solo on Its All You by toying with a series of intervals, seeming as casual as a man whiling away the time bouncing a ball. As he enters the sixteenth bar of his first solo chorus (the piece is based on Its You or No One), he brings out material from the deeper harmonic structure of the tune and builds toward the mid-point of his solo. In the second chorus, Sills continues to increase the complexity of his melodic line and the intensity of his rhythm, but not his volume. As he approaches the final sixteen bars of the solo, his line is at its most variegated. Then he eases off with a succession of phrases like scales, recalling his opening intervals. He plays a section of mostly sixteenth notes, and finishes with a short speech-like declaration. In sixty-two seconds, Sills has told a story that has a definable beginning, middle and end. Economy of expression is not something of which post-Coltrane soloists are often accused. Heres one who knows how to conceive a short statement, make it count, and get out.
In the same piece, Sills and alto saxophonist Gary Foster have a chorus of unaccompanied counterpoint in the style of Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. Fosters own solo finds him at his most Konitz-like, but on the albums title tunean I Got Rhythm variantFoster is his identifiable self, and he has a quietly glittering solo on Eastern View. He and Sills blend so effectively on the out-chorus of Slow Joe that it was difficult on the first hearing to know whether it was one horn or two.
Alan Broadbent is the pianist. One of the great accompanists in jazz today, he also one of its most breathtaking soloists, as his work here on Slow Joe and Down the Line demonstrates. Broadbents introduction to Sills achingly beautiful peformance of Never Let Me Go and his solo on the piece are highlights of the CD. In common with Sills, guitarist Larry Koonse does not wear his virtuosity on his sleeve, but he doesnt need to; his musicianship and the richness of his ideas are obvious. Broadbents longtime sidekick Putter Smith is the bassist, Tim Pleasant the sensitive drummer.