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New York Cats by Mark Elf

This is Mark's fifth and latest release. Featuring veteran bass player Jay Leonhart and drummer Dennis Mackrel. This trio session cooks. Clifford Brown's composition, "Brownie Speaks" is a tricky workout for even the most seasoned veteran. Mark and company take it all in stride, playing all the changes, as if hey had been playing them for years, but with a sense of musical adventure. Jay and Dennis compliment Mark's playing beautifully by laying down a solid foundation on which to state the theme. Mark, ever weaving in and out tickling the notes and able to add his own touch to this piece.

The Harold Arlen composition, "Blues In The Night", is taken at a bluesy relaxed pace featuring some nice strumming from Mark, reminiscent of Jim Hall's laid back style.

My favorite is the way that Mark handles "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", a standard if ever there was one. Just when you thought you heard it all, Mark offers up a tasty treat playing the melody playing some beautiful harmonics over soft accompaniment from the rhythm section. This is the crown jewel from this CD and certainly one of the most beautiful versions out there.

Mark wrote five originals which highlight his writing talent. "The Conflict" opens with Mark leading the way before the rest of the band kicks in for a silky ride of straight Jazz featuring Jay walking the bass throughout while Marks serves up some beautiful sounding runs a la Django Reinhardt. You can tell that Mark loves to play and explore possibilities. So effortless and joyous is his playing. "Pemble's Tremble" begins with Jay Leonhart's bass playing before Mark so eloquently states the melody. Then the adventure begins. Ever searching, Mark progresses into a staccato like improvisation, with some lovely drum work from Dennis. Using various percussion, and accenting at just the right moment to capture the almost hypnotic mood of the piece. "Heartfelt" showcases Mark's beautiful ballad playing. So sensitive on the strings, highlighting each note with emotion and style. Reminds me of Kenny Burrell's playing, and the sensitivity and grace he would bring to a ballad.

Just as Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and many others before him defined their styles for future generations to learn and listen through classics like his Ellington tribute recordings, so does Mark Elf through his excellent recordings displaying taste, tradition, and style. Lookout for more exciting music from this talented artist.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mark Elf
  • CD Title: New York Cats
  • Year Released: 1998
  • Record Label: Jen Bay Jazz
  • Musicians: Kevin Burrell: Percussion; Mark Elf: Guitar; Jay Leonhart: Bass; Dennis Mackrel: Drums / Shaker
  • Rating: Five Stars
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