Mark Douthit

Groove

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Douthit turns in a textbook easy listening performance on his Hillsboro Jazz debut. He has the distorted upper-register growl; the urgent intonation; the full-bored, slightly quivery Kenny G-like timbre on alto; the blues/gospel licks; and, quite likely, the squint-eyed grimace on high notes that are apparently required for this genre, along with the velvety electric piano backup, gently insistent drums, and other similar essentials. His arrangements nod toward a Steely Dan influence, and not just on the cover of "What a Shame About Me," with the kind of milky brass unison lines and sharp horn jabs that have long been a hallmark of Donald Fagen's charts. Douthit writes with a concise technique and an ear for a hook; the last four bars of the chorus on his "Voice of the Heart," for instance, tweak the chord movement in order to nudge the tune along to the next verse -- a nice, though not exactly riveting, twist. The final track, a rendering of Stevie Wonder's "You and I," provides the most refreshing moment on the record, precisely because this piano/sax duo gives Douthit a chance to interact with one other musician rather than just fit into a fairly static rhythm bed. This proves both that Douthit has what it takes, and that it's possible to stretch out while still keeping your jazz "lite."

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