Mark Elf
Over the Airwaves
Jen Bay Jazz (JBR 0006)

Mark Elf, guitar; Jay Leonhart, acoustic bass; Ralph Peterson, drums

Over the Airwaves is a rhythmically aggressive guitar trio session, a powerful example of the leader's fertile harmonic imagination. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Elf refuses to succumb to the chord-running exercises that have marred lesser recordings. Very few contemporary musicians choose to explore the harmonic and rhythmic implications of tonal centers and related vertical structures, and in this regard, Elf is clearly in the vanguard of new, creative music.

To be sure, this dedication to Jazz radio is in no sense outside tradition. The Elf originals "On at KLON" and "TGEG Blues" are respectively based on familiar thirty-two- and twelve-bar structures; interpretations of standards including "Lush Life" and "Blue Moon" are represented as well. However, each improvisation bears witness to a highly original and melodic approach to Jazz; this guitarist communicates eloquently with churning polyrhythms and is never dominated by them. The phenomenal legato cadenzas in "By Myself" are a case in point. Leonhart and Peterson are a bandleader's dream, with technical skills equal to those of Ron Carter and the late, great Anthony Williams.

Bravo, Mr. Elf!

by James D. Armstrong Jr.

New Sounds - CD Reviews March 2000