Guitarist Mark Elf's Liftoff is a very enjoyable collection of classic sounding jazz. Elf's playing is meticulous, and he is joined for ten tracks by a stellar rhythm section of David Hazeltine on piano, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Lewis Nash and, on the Latin-tinged "Chuy's Challenge" only, percussionist Daniel Sadownick. This is a recording that is as swinging as it is polished.
Elf contributes six originals (two repeated) and the band also provides interpretations of two standards, "Thanks For The Memory" (yes, that one) and "I've Never Been In Love Before." The title track and "Deception Blues" are each patterned off John Coltrane's "Countdown," with the latter rendered in a 12 bar pattern as the title should suggest. These also happen to be the compositions that are performed twice, so that's a lot of counting down. But the group certainly mine a lot out of the progression--it has been said more than once that you could spend a lifetime studying Giant Steps, so we certainly won't grudge the fellows for spending about fifteen minutes on it here.
Mark Elf is a guitarist with a clear tone and impeccable taste, and he is joined by as fine a rhythm section as there is. Hazeltine plays some very tasty stuff, and Nash and Washington keep a steady pulse on a nicely varied set of jazz. An entertaining effort.