The Art of the Melody
Angela Davis Nicholas Records ★★★ ✩
FROM the burgeoning numbers of Australian jazz players based in New York comes a debut album from 27-year-old alto saxophonist Angela Davis, from Toowoomba, Queensland. Bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera are also from Australia, with pianist Chris Ziemba the only American on this recording. The title is fitting, since the collection is melodic in content and improvisational style. Davis, a student of Lee Konitz, has a beautifully elegant, honeyed alto tone, reminiscent of Paul Desmond. Three of the nine tracks are originals; the others are varied, from the Scottish traditional Annie Laurie to the gracefully interpreted ballad Crazy She Calls Me and Tom Waits’s Martha — all are tunes of strong, emotive melodies. The opener, 41. St Nick, is a quick post-bop theme started by piano and alto in unison before the alto solos with just bass and drums, travelling smartly in a supportive groove. After a short piano and bass intro plus the theme from alto, the 1976 Boz Scaggs song We’re All
Alone evolves into imaginatively flowing piano from Ziemba, a Juilliard graduate, who injects a swinging feel into his solo, followed by Davis’s lyrical take on the piece with just piano accompaniment. Oh’s strong bass introduces the original Conscientia, continuing to move and propel under alto and piano solos embellished by Jayaweera’s soft brushes. This is not avant-garde work but it’s a well-played testament to melody with the ghost of Desmond hovering throughout.