Doug Webb, Another Scene

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 01.03.14 in Reviews

Doug Webb is a veteran L.A. session saxophonist who ventured to New York (hence the title) to assemble a superb quartet and record his best album to date. Most of the essential material here is sparkling, rollicking hard bop in the classic mode: Webb and pianist Peter Zak playing with a buoyant, blues-based fervor while drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Dwayne Burno provide spiky but rock-solid accompanimentThe debt to John Coltrane is apparent, and not only because “Another Step” is just a creative variation on “Giant Steps.” “Eulogy” has the sort of swelling, beneficent glow reminiscent of ‘Trane’s A Love Supreme (with Royston nailing the tension-building Elvin Jones role) and after a stately intro, “One for Art” lowers the throttle on already-rapid syncopation to produce a molten slurry of notes.

The veteran saxophonist’s best album to date

Zak, who is relatively obscure despite a strong string of discs on the Steeplechase label, adds depth and energy as an inventive second soloist. Royston gets more of a chance to barge around than in his higher-profile gigs with Bill Frisell and Dave Douglas, and seizes his showcase moments on “Rhythm with Rudy,” and “One for Art.” Last but not least, it is a bittersweet treat to hear Burno, who passed away at age 43 just months after this release. His engaging, woody-toned bass lines invariably provide the right amount of glue, and when he gets to solo, as on a cover of Thad Jones’s “Bird Song,” here, his nuanced meld of funk and swing perfectly suits the occasion.