And it’s not just Faulk who sees the value in his compositions; his material has been recorded by artists including Benny Golson, Rufus Reid and James Spaulding. What they see in Faulk’s writing is what we hear: clever invention within a mainstream context; melodies that invade the mind; and changes that encourage inventive improvisation.
This time out Faulk returns to the piano-based quartet format of his first record, 1993’s Focusing In. With pianist Carlton Holmes drifting somewhere between McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Will Terrill providing a capable backdrop, Faulk shifts between his main axe, tenor saxophone, and soprano saxophone with remarkable confidence. Whether it is an uptempo blues like "Hopscotch" or a tender ballad like "Dolores", Faulk plays with an rich, appealing tone.
Faulk experiments with irregular meter on the 11/8 blues, "Crawfish", before dissolving into a slow blues that features strong solos from Faulk and Holmes. On the aptly-titled "Tension", an ostinato "A" section alternates with a more swinging "B" section, which provides the release. The album closes with the lightly funky "Brotherly Love", which is the closest the album comes to contemporary jazz.
Being labeled a mainstream artist can sometimes be a disadvantage but Dan Faulk, with The Dan Faulk Songbook, Vol. 1, proves that mainstream jazz can still be original and inventive. With a repertoire of memorable material, and a solid group playing it, Faulk is clearly an artist to watch.