On Meant to Be, trombonist Steve Davis features all original material, creating and sustaining a positive impression from the first track to the last. The band plays as a unit, the solos are more than mere scale runs, and each of the compositions has an individual character that distinguishes it from its surroundings.
Take "Choices," for instance. The tune is taken at a loping, leisurely pace that opens into 4/4 for the blowing choruses. Embedded in the structure is a nicely turned "tension-and-release motif," as described by the CD annotator, Ted Panken.
Describing the piece that follows, "As Fate Would Have It," Panken cites drumming legends Max Roach and Joe Chambers as inspirations for the tune, but there is a taste of Art Blakey (catch those horn voicings on the head) too. After the solo drum introduction, in contrast to the laid back air of "Choices," here we have a full-force whirlwind once the solos edge past the themeall enlivened by Nasheet Waits' drive and, at times, hard-hit, off-rhythm accents, and backbeat bombs. Xavier Davis and Jimmy Greene both take exuberant turns, the latter's marked by several beautifully articulated upper-range tenor shrieks.
The leader and his cohorts do not disappoint elsewhere. It is easy to consider "Waiting" and "Angelina" a mini-suite as they represent, programmatically, two aspects of the trombonist's daughter coming into the family. The latter represents the happy occasion (more fine upper-range tenor work from Greene), while on the more reflective "Waiting," Greene (here on flute) and the leader combine sublimely at the beginning before giving way to Xavier Davis' thoughtful offering. He takes time to explore the harmonic possibilities before him. The trombonist, too, is unhurried, reflective and, most of all, tenderbefore the two horns reprise the theme.
Xavier Davis, Dwayne Burno (consistently confirming his status as an inventive, yet supportive, bassist), and Waits not only buoy the horns, they work as a team to create the pliable rhythmic base so necessary to jazz performance.
The session's two most straight-ahead, traditional themes, "Bright Side" and "Blues Across the World," bracket the proceedings, taking the listener in and out in fine fashion.
Track Listing: Bright Side; Choices; As Fate Would Have It; Lost in Thought; Waiting; Angelina; Blues Across the World
Personnel: Steve Davis, trombone; Jimmy Greene, tenor & sporano sax and flute; Ray Morrin, tenor sax (7); Xavier Davis, piano; Dwayne Burno, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums