David Sills: Natural Lines

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David Sills latest album, Natural Lines, is his 17th release as leader, and the latest of decades of jazz recordings as a leading woodwind player. On this album, Sills utilises the tenor saxophone and alto flute, leading the quintet of two guitars, bass, and drums.

As Sills explains in the album notes, the decision to use two guitars was taken because there was often no piano at the venues at which he performed, and so he began to use a second guitar instead. The result is a fresh and captivating album rooted in straightahead jazz.

Over the 12 tracks, the quintet performs a few originals as well as standards and covers, referencing their influences but maintaining originality. The opener, an original called Minor Monk, introduces the band’s superb musicianship with a tight rhythmic motif and a series of solos. Perhaps the most well known of the covers is Miles Davis’s Nardis, written for Cannonball Adderley and never recorded by Miles himself. The track is led by Sills on the alto flute, and dissonant guitar and percussion all improvise freely, before fading away and being reintroduced by Blake White on bass, who begins the cover.

Sills’ tribute to Sonny Rollins, Sonny’s Side, is an upbeat piece in which guitar and sax lead with a complex yet catchy melody in unison before solos from Sills, the guitars and the drums. Another original, Jones’ Tones, is based upon Have You Met Miss Jones. Sills adding a new melody, as well as a series of excellent saxophone solos, before the track drops dynamically for the guitars and bass to improvise.

Sills’ latest album should suit straightahead jazz fans well, as it moves through some classic pieces and adds its own modern touches. Sills and his ensemble are excellent, and his latest album is well worth listening to.

Discography
Minor Monk; Sync Or Swim; Sonny’s Side; Quiet Is The Star; Lover Man; Foggy Daze; Mellow Stone; Nardis; Jones’ Tones; All The Little Things; Outside Corner; Interplay (71.27)
Sills (af, ts); Larry Koonse (g); Mike Scott (g); Blake White (b); Tim Pleasant (d). California, 8 and 9 July 2019.
Gut String Records GSR048