ClassicsOnline Home » SILLS, David: Journey Together
Here’s a subject that is getting tossed around a lot by musicians these days: Does digging into jazz’s past * by listening deeply to recordings of previous eras and transcribing solos * lead to unimaginative improvisations, or can this practice open the door to meaningful, individual expression? To the latter, saxophonist David Sills is one who exclaims a hearty: ‘Yes!*
Sills, a 28-year-old from Manhattan Beach, Ca. who has a degree in Classical Saxophone from California State University Long Beach, is an emotional, passionate musician who embraces jazz* golden years. "I want my playing to be representative of earlier styles, say the *50s and *60s and taking it from there into my own direction, make it reflective of today, modern," he says.
Initially, Sills was a big Stan Getz fan, then came late-*50s-early-*60s John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins and others. Lately, Henderson * via such albums as Inner Urge (Blue Note) and Double Rainbow (Verve) * has been his primary saxophone influence. "I really dig Joe’s pure, individual sound, his improvising style which is a mix of introspective and extroverted," says Sills.
It’s interesting how Sills makes use of the musical information he’s gleaned from studying Henderson. In his solos on this fine Naxos Jazz début, we hear ideas that sound somewhat like Joe’s * rapid repeated bursts, chromaticisms, passages comprised of wide intervals * but which contain notes of Sills* choosing. In this way, the saxophonist emulates the architecture of the master, but employs his own melodic thoughts, his own sound, and comes out sounding unique * and modern.
About Sills* deep, rich tone. More than any other aspect of his artistry, this has been his focus, with a daily regimen of long tones a standby. A recent change in reeds has darkened the sound, made it much more direct and personal; if in the past, he resembled Getz, that resemblance * save his tone’s warm centre * is all but gone.
The saxophonist is working steadily around Southern California, and the players on JOURNEY TOGETHER are among the top drawer Los Angeles jazz artists with whom he regularly appears. Guitarist Larry Koonse and bassist Darek Oles are members of the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet (also on Naxos Jazz), drummer Joe La Barbera is the former Bill Evans trapsman and pianist Alan Broadbent is widely acclaimed, recently as a member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.
Of the musicians, Sills says, "Larry’s open approach to time, harmony and melody has been a big influence on me, Darek has a wonderful sound and his time is rock solid, I’ve always dug Alan’s playing and Joe brings out the best in you."
The tunes cover a wealth of moods and styles. Tristano’s 317 E. 32nd St. and Where’s It At? draw their basis from great standards, Out of Nowhere and What Is This thing Called Love? respectively. The undulating Mai Lien, which segues from 3/4 to 4/4, and the vibrant blues, Ho Chi Minh Hustle, are reflections of time Sills spent in Vietnam while he was playing on a cruise ship. Soul Eyes and We’ll Be Together Again are two lovely ballads he’s wanted to explore, Inner Urge is the heated Henderson now-standard, and Aliya and Journey Together are lyrical contributions by Koonse and LA Jazz Quartet drummer Kevin Tullius.
Sills says the album, with its succulent combination of musicians, compositions and performances, has "a cohesiveness, a definite sound," and he’s right.
What’s next for this talented up-and-comer? More practicing and playing, and, hopefully, a move to New York. "You have to be completely focused there. It’s a constant source of inspiration."
JOURNEY TOGETHER shows he’s ready,
* Zan Stewart
Down Beat, Los Angeles Times