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David Garfield – Jazz Outside the Box

Apr. 5, 2018

This impressive and intriguing collection of tracks presented by contemporary jazz keyboardist David Garfield is a one-of-a-kind project. Jazz Outside the Box is primarily a straight-ahead album that occasionally combines the elements of this type of jazz with hints of pop/rock and blues to create what he touts as the first in a “Outside the Box” series featuring and honoring jazz greats from all over the world. Straight-ahead has always been at Garfield’s core, but he has now given in to the temptation to return “home.”

While the album is a straight-ahead endeavor, it is also, in my opinion, an undeniable fusion of genres that exhibit creativity, vision, and interpretation. Sure, many of the tracks are covers of tunes originally penned by such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Billy Cobham, Joe Zawinul, Oliver Nelson, and Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as Garfield originals, but there are also tracks that have that snap/crackle/pop twist that adds a special nudge to the sophisticated, classy project.

Ordinarily, I do not offer reviews of straight-ahead material as our focus here is on contemporary/”smooth” jazz (I’m beginning to reevaluate the true meaning of the latter lately, however), but this offering is such a beautiful potpourri of musical goodness and loaded with the melodic fabric and texture I always seek. In fact, I’d say it is the combination of excellent song choices and the clever way in which covers are presented that convinced me to review this one.

Garfield does great justice to the central object of his musical affection. For example, there’s no denying the Duke feel and persona on “In a Sentimental Mood” or the elegance of Silver’s “Song For My Father,” (dedicated here to the legendary artist, as well. Also, Garfield has a little fun with the Steely Dan copy of the intro – found on “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”).

To fully appreciate the gravity, concept, direction, and appeal of this album, you have to place it in the proper context as you listen to all the material – including the incorporation of the Sting touch as Garfield offers his own take on “Fragile” and “Roxanne,” the handling of the bluesy, soul-deep “Country Preacher” originally penned by the legendary Zawinul, and the funk-laced Cobham gem “Red Baron.” All pure gold.

Those of us who live in the contemporary and “smooth” jazz realm will be pleasantly moved to absorb this work of art, and jazz purists will find it compelling. A great effort. – Ronald Jackson