In New England jazz circles, guitarist Dave Howard is known for his work as a sideman for Joe Parillo, a talented but obscure pianist who deserves a lot more national exposure than he has received. Parillo is a very lyrical soloist, and because Howard can be quite lyrical himself, he was the perfect guitarist for the Joe Parillo Ensemble. Howard's work with Parillo in the 1990s made one hope that he would eventually record an album of his own; Souvenirs, which was recorded in 2000 and released in 2001, finds the guitarist stepping up to the plate and showing what he can do as a leader. Howard wrote or co-wrote everything on this CD, a diverse outing that ranges from melodic, laid-back jazz-pop/crossover items like the Brazilian-flavored "Calabria" and the Pat Metheny-ish title track to harder fusion such as "Espresso" and "Interlude." Howard (whose main influences range from Metheny, Larry Coryell, and Mike Stern to Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall) occasionally detours into straight-ahead jazz, embracing 1960s-like post-bop on the modal "Under the Knife." To his credit, Souvenirs is fairly unpredictable; those who know Howard for his work with Parillo would naturally expect some gentle material, but the more aggressive fusion tracks come as a pleasant surprise. Souvenirs falls short of remarkable, but it's a solid, enjoyable release that has no problem illustrating Howard's diversity.
by Alex Henderson