One of the great things about jazz is that there's always room for persuasive new voices, especially those who've mastered the vocabulary and know how to swing. Saxophonist David Sills, now in his mid-thirties, qualifies easily on both counts, as he shows consistently on Down the Line, evidently his second album as a leader of his own group, although Sills has recorded with a number of other first-rank musicians.
Sills has enlisted a clever and congenial front-line partner in alto saxophonist Gary Foster, and a blue-chip rhythm section anchored by drummer Tim Pleasant and including pianist Alan Broadbent, guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist Putter Smith. Sills wrote five numbers, Koonse and Broadbent one each, to complement Milt Jackson's "Bags' Groove," Sam Rivers' "Beatrice," Antonio Carlos Jobim's "If You Never Come to Me" and the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans standard "Never Let Me Go." Sills, who brings to mind such neo-swingers as Spike Robinson, Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton, and Foster, who has more than a trace of Paul Desmond in his burnished alto, are a pleasant-sounding duo whose solos are invariably resourceful and engagingóbut no more so than Koonse or Broadbent, who embrace the moment whenever the spotlight shines their way.
The colorful session opens with Sills' originals "Cuttin' Back" and "Down the Line" (which I think should have been reversed, but that's a minor quibble)."Line" is especially loose and likable, hearkening back to the days of the storied Zoot Sims/Al Cohn partnership, just like his well-grooved "It's All You" and Broadbent's buoyant "Time Line." Sills moves from tenor to flute on a beguiling version of "Bags' Groove," and is alone with the rhythm section on "Never Let Me Go," "Beatrice" and "If You Never Come to Me."
Sills has an impressive voice, and Down the Line offers an admirable showcase for his singular talents as a composer and player. We'll no doubt be hearing more from him in the months and years to come.