Ron Davis - Blue Modules
Ron Davis is on a mission, realized on his 8th release, entitled Blue Modules. It’s all about his drive to move jazz somewhere where it hasn’t been for years – back to its rightful, appreciative audience. In recognition of the birth of jazz, when it proved to be the ‘pop’ of its day, Ron Davis has made it his charge to wade well past the tired, ‘playlist’ standards that pass for the jazz of +today and, surrounded by a top-flight crew of innovative players and instrumental leaders, Davis has pushed to evolve a fresh definition of jazz which embraces classical, funk, rap, blues, world and even country music – removing the borders which can often get in the way of honest appreciation. Blue Modules is his seismic shift in this new direction. His band is comprised of Ross Macintyre on bass, Roger Travassos on drums and percussion but also adds guests like the electrifying Donna Grantis on guitar and actor Diego Matamoros on vocals. Boasting a truly eclectic mix of songs you’d never expect to find on a jazz release, all tied together in the spirit of improvisation amongst like-minded adventurers, is exactly the point. On this new release, Davis stretches himself – with the help of his fellow players – underlining his skills as a phenomenal instrumentalist, as a composer and arranger. He jumps from grand piano to Fender Rhodes, celeste and back again – honouring the true progression of his take on what jazz should – and can – be. At the same time, he doesn’t abandon his fan base – those who know him for his swing-based, post-bop approach to the genre of jazz piano. He merely adds to our collective knowledge with his tirelessly progressive approach to the instrument, to the category and to one’s ability to appreciate a fresh approach to musical enjoyment. With a deeply-rooted desire to break down all borders, if not expectations, Davis has assaulted some surprising covers, interspersing them with smart, lively originals. “Roger’s Rumble” is a piano-based blast from outer space and a showcase for both sampled keyboards and Roger Travassos on drums/ The funky “Pawpwalk” features recalls the ‘80s in general and Lonnie Liston Smith in particular, with some decisive guitar incisions by Grantis, at her most controlled. Sesame Street’s “Mahna Mahna” keeps its sassy New Orleans line. It’s a spirited reinvention showcasing Davis’s piano talents together with some big-bottomed, nimble bass-playing from Ross Macintyre. Davis & Co. make something special out of XTC’s original punk-based classic “Making Plans For Nigel”, while Davis’ cover of Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas” owes something to Sin City but, minus its typical bombast- with an outstanding percussive contribution from Travassos. Davis’ cover of Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile – Slight Return” marks the appearance of Diego Matamoros’ talking vocal (in the sole non-instrumental) – reinventing the piece full-circle like something birthed in a dub poetry club. Blue Modules is not so much something for everybody as it is a fresh way to approach music new and old. Best summed up by the title track, Davis and his simpatico crew create a heartfelt stew of sounds that steer clear of labeling while appealing to the ability of a groove to strike a nerve. The smooth, funky and highly elastic “Blue Modules” track best defines Davis’ spirited sense of adventure and legitimate decision to steer clear of genres for their own sake. Taking something so sacrosanct as a Beatles’ song – most notably, “You Can’t Do That”, speaks volumes to his newfound direction – the reinvention of pop on his terms. Chances are good you’ll dig it as hard as Davis can dish it out. A giant step forward.