CD REVIEW: John Daversa – Wobbly Dance Flower


John Daversa – Wobbly Dance Flower
(BRM Jazz: 3020624382. CD review by Nick Davies)

Wobbly Dance Flower is the latest release from California-born, Florida-based, Grammy-nominated trumpeter, John Daversa. Adept at writing for all types of band, this is his second small band release although he is better known for being one of the leaders in large jazz ensemble. On this album, Daversa embraces his delight in music of substance. In fact, at times, it is difficult to believe that it not a big band delivery because the sound is so meaty.

Daversa is joined on this album by legendary saxophonist Bob Mintzer, as well as guitarist Zane Carey, pianist and B3 player Joe Bagg, bass player Jerry Watts and drummer Gene Goye: an impressive line-up which delivers in every way.

Unlike lesser offerings, the album title is not the most interesting part of this record, every aspect of each track is intriguing, much like a good novel that is devoured in a single sitting. The title was coined by Deversa’s daughter after she heard a song that was struggling to find a title. The name seemed to stick with the melody and, from that point, the album was always going to be called Wobbly Dance Flower.

This nine-track album includes Ms Turkey, Donna Lee and Meet Me At The Airport, all of which showcase Daversa’s sense of humour and the fact that most of these melodies are composed by singing into a cell phone at airport lounges, a by-product of a jazz lifestyle (educating and touring, leaving little time for writing). Every spare moment is used for composing.

The first track on the album Miss Turkey is a high energy post-bop tune and got its name because it sounds like a gobbling turkey. The tune is full of bounce from the outset with Daversa’s trumpet setting the pace before the rest of the band join in. The tune follows this same pattern with each instrument having a solo. A real foot tapper, more reminiscent of a road runner at speed than a gobbling turkey and a fine start to the album.

Next is Donna Lee, the be-bop standard: originally performed and attributed to Charlie Parker, although Miles Davis also claimed it as his own. To take on this track performed by two greats was a bold decision but, once again, this band smashes it. There are overtones to the original and even to the Jaco Pastorius version, partly due to Bob Mintzer’s presence, but Daversa has certainly moulded it to his own style and, as such, it is more of a standard brought into the 21st century than an ode to the original. Soft and mellow in parts, supported by flawless horn playing, it’s a beautiful version of this song.

The rest of the album follows a similar pattern: music played to an exceptional standard, telling a story of playfulness, childhood and travel, each song taking the listener on a journey, each with a happy ending. Even the artwork cover instils a sense of fun.

Wobbly Dance Flower is a great album – one that has to be listened to from start to finish to fully appreciate the well-thought out concept. The playing is of such a high standard, it’s amazing to see how much Daversa manages to get out of the band. The stand out track, for me, is his version of Donna Lee. This resurrection of a be-bop classic, in my opinion, makes it a 21st century anthem.

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