Thu, 23 October 2014
Mark Elf is one of the most unsung guitar heroes in jazz today. His performance and composition abilities are outstanding, and he plays with a fire and soulfulness that many hotshot players lack. Check out any of his recordings on his own Jen Bay Records imprint, to hear someone at the height of his powers. For my money, his 1998 release, Trickynometry, is one of the finest jazz guitar albums of the past twenty years.
After making his professional debut in 1971, Elf followed in the footsteps of guitarists like George Benson and made a name for himself being a sideman for great Hammond B-3 players. He recorded his first album as a sideman with Jimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes in 1973, Giants of the Organ Come Together. In the late 1970’s Mark worked with Junior Cook and Bill Hardman in New York City and also recorded with them on the Muse Label. Since then, he has he toured Europe with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and other jazz luminaries, and recorded with Jon Hendricks and the Heath Brothers. All of his solo records on Jen Bay have reached the top ten on National Jazz Radio, with nine of them going to the top of the charts consecutively since 1997.
After an eight year hiatus, Elf is back with the appropriately titled Mark Elf Returns. The CD features seven originals and three covers, all played by Elf and a superior backing group, which includes David Hazeltine on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The tunes have the same spritely bopping sound, as Elf toys with tempos and speeds to bring out the many facets of his playing. He brings out his baritone guitar for a pair of tunes, an instrument that is often neglected in recent jazz (save for a pair of Pat Metheny CDs).
Podcast 450 is my conversation with Mark, as he talks about the new CD, how he chooses cover tunes, the state of jazz education, and his affinity for the drumming of Lewis Nash. Songs from Mark Elf Returns include “Jacky’s Jaunt” and “Low Blow”, along with a tune from previous releases, including “Dot Com Blues” from Trickynometry,