Mark Elf

Dream Steppin'

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On his tenth album, guitarist Mark Elf fronts sort of a virtual quartet consisting of himself on lead and overdubbed rhythm guitar, backed by bassist Neal Minor and drummer Lewis Nash. The program consists primarily of original compositions, with a couple of standards and a unique but tasteful arrangement of "America" thrown in as well. The originals are almost all exceptionally well-written: "Dream Steppin'," Elf's take on the chord changes to "You Stepped out of a Dream," is intricate and slightly jagged, yet genuinely lyrical; the wry "Pregnant Chad Blues" is crafted in such a way that it's difficult to detect the 12-bar blues progression; "Rhymin' for Simon" uses a repeated phrase that crosses bar lines and repeats in a way somewhat reminiscent of the music of Steve Reich. Minor and Nash are brilliant accompanists, anchoring the groove while keeping the overall mood brightly swinging. Elf, whose solo phrasing has always tended to be a bit boxy and foursquare, sounds looser this time out, and his harmonic invention remains a sheer delight. Recommended.

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