|In the world of jazz, vibraphonist Steve Hobbs is considered a musician's musician. Roughly translated, that means that Hobbs is highly respected by his peers, but has yet to achieve star recognition. This recording should do a great deal to change that perception. Steve's first recording, entitled Escape, was released in May 1990, and received excellent reviews. For his second recording he flew to Los Angeles and selected some of the best musicianship available for this project. John Patitucci, bass; Joe LaBarbera, drums; Alan Broadbent, piano; Bob Sheppard, reeds; and Luis Conte, percussion, are as stellar a group of musicians that one could aspire to. What is even more interesting is that with the exception of LaBarbera, none of the aforementioned musicians had ever met Steve before' It does make one curious as to why musicians with such impeccable credentials would agree to participate in such a project. It certainly wasn't necessary to enhance their reputations. The reasons must therefore lie elsewhere. Unbeknownst to Steve, his reputation had preceded him concerning his musical gifts and his ability to swing at all times; and musicians love to 'swing'. Steve's concerns about the session were quite different. 'Would they like the way I play? What kind of attitude would they have?' It goes without saying that attitude is an important factor in any given situation, especially when dealing with such a creative process as jazz which depends on improvisation as its main ingredient. Steve need not have been concerned. Music has a way of making everyone honest.
In order to break the ice, Steve called Bog's Groove, a medium blues composition. His hope was that this relaxed tempo would allow everyone to get a feel for each other. For two and a half minutes Steve plays one swinging chorus after another and the desired effect is achieved. An immediate rapport is established with the group. Little did Steve know that the sound engineer was recording that warm-up tune and at its conclusion, a voice came over the intercom, stating: 'That was a great take. What do you want to do next.' Steve protested, exclaiming 'Honest, guys, I would never have taken so many choruses if I knew the tape was running!' The combination of humility and embarressment on Steve's part brought gales of laughter from his fellow musicians and from that point on, a special musical chemistry developed throughout the session. As for the music itself, it is a combination of Hobbs originals and established standards.
Missing Carolina is a beautiful poetic statement that expresses the warmth and nostalgia Steve feels for his native North Carolina.On The Run. a Hobbs original, suggests a musical chase reminiscent of the many dues paid on the road with the musician breathlessly running from one venue to another in pursuit of that ever elusive gig. After an intense solo by Bob Sheppard on tenor, Hobbs takes it on home with no stops in between. 6/ome It On My Youth, a wonderful ballad by Oscar Levant, shows what Hobbs can really do with a ballad. After a sensitive introduction that is somewhat understated by Alan Broadbent, Steve begins to show all of the melodic and harmonic possibilities of this classic, at all times having tremendous respect for the original melodic line. If you will notice, Broadbent lays out during most of Steve's solo. When asked why, Alan simply stated that it didn't require anything else. High praise indeed coming from Mr Broadbent! Sea Breeze is a reminder of Steve's days spent in the Caribbean. The ambiance between Broadbent and Hobbs is brought into full play on this selection.
There is a certain joy in this music, an almost festive atmosphere that suggests the cool breezes of many a tropical isle. Coreaaah"!, another Hobbs original, is written as a tribute to Chick incorporating the latin rhythms that have been so much a part of Chick Corea's work. Percussionist Luis Conte's contribution to this composition is a welcome addition, fane is a haunting ballad written for Steve's wife and expresses the warmth and affection for that special lady in his life in musical terms. A composition devoid of tension, played in a casual, relaxed manner, it makes quite a statement about their relationship. The D.A., yet another Hobbs original, has an element of mystery to it. Patitucci's bass line provides much of the foundation for this piece, allowing the soloist to sing over his rhythmic free flowing lines. Astrud expresses Steve's appreciation for that Brazilian singer who sang in a whisper. Somehow Steve's music seems to evoke the same feeling. Bernie's Tune, the old Mulligan standard, is restated by Hobbs and company in the most contemporary vocabulary at a burning tempo. This composition really allows Steve to pull out all the stops and once again the interplay between he and Broadbent is extraordinary.11 should be obvious from the selections on this album that Hobbs is a very eclectic contemporary vibist. His original compositions suggest much of where he has been and what he has experienced, which is as it should be. In a music business dominated by trends and a host of imitators, Steve Hobbs remains a highly individual voice. This album should do a great deal to enhance that reputation.
Frank Spend - jazz Critic and Program Director for the dearwater and Hollvwood jazz Festivals
Recorded at The Bakery Recording Studio, West Hollywod, California.
Recording Date: 5 and 6 August 1991.