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June Diva by Dusty York Trio

It’s always a courageous move when a saxophone player chooses to play in the trio format of sax, bass and drums. The absence of a piano or guitar player offers greater harmonic space for the soloist to explore, but with that greater freedom comes greater responsibility, in terms of keeping things interesting and as a cohesive sounding ‘whole’.

This is the challenge that tenor saxophonist Dusty York undertakes on his latest project, "June Diva", released on his own label, DMYORK Music. Here York is joined by Keith Brush on bass and Ken Paine on drums, and they play eight original compositions, all written by York.

It’s obvious to me that York is greatly influenced by Sonny Rollins, one of the original innovators of the sax/bass/drums trio. York plays with that same fire and sense of searching that was always evident in Rollins’ playing. However, he does not appear to have the technical facility on the horn that Rollins or many of today’s better players possess. That is a handicap, but one that I think he works around quite well. His solo ideas are solidly presented and he’s very adept at taking a simple theme and developing it in interesting ways as the solo progresses. It certainly helps that he as two excellent sidemen to support him in Brush and Paine. Drummer Paine seems instinctively to know when to add flair and when to lay back and cruise on each one of these tracks, and Brush’s bass is right in step with him.

York is a very talented composer, and each of the songs presented here is a testament to that. The CD opens with "Minas Gerais", a Latin-inspired tune with a simple but somewhat ambiguous head that really shows off York’s talent for motivic development. The title track, "June Diva", is a bouncy number that allows for some call and response between sax and bass (Brush plays a great solo). York’s approach on this song brings to mind classic Coltrane and it’s probably my favorite song on the disc. "Union Station" has an interesting melody that seems inspired by a busy train terminal, with York employing some exciting overtones during the head. Here Paine gets to stretch out with an excellent extended drum solo. The first ballad, "The Carmen Tone", is endearing and sentimental without being sappy. The tempo they’ve chosen to play this at is perfect, allowing it to be pushed when needed, giving them room to change the vibe at will.

The Wayne Shorter-ish "Twice At Night" is hard-swinging, with a catchy melody and a simple, straight-forward structure. The next track, "Alter Idem", is a bit more complex. It’s one of the faster tunes on the CD and the band really digs into this one, with everyone contributing spirited solos. "Korah Marie" begins with Brush repeating a simple figure on bass that York picks up on and incorporates into the head. It’s in 3/4 time and Paine throws in some interesting rhythmic variations that keep the energy level especially high. The album closes with a second ballad, "MMSB", which is played at a bit faster pace than the first and has a slightly more forlorn quality to it. York’s solo takes the song into some unexpected directions, but with very satisfying results.

June Diva is an ambitious album by a talented young artist that displays great promise. I look forward to his next release.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dusty York Trio
  • CD Title: June Diva
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: DMYORK Music
  • Tracks: Minas Gerais, June Diva, Union Station, The Carmen Tone, Twice At Night, Alter Idem, Korah Marie, MMSB
  • Musicians: Dusty York (tenor saxophone), Keith Brush (bass), Ken Paine (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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