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Dan Skea Quartet, But That Ain't This


(Kenya Sands Music, CD)

Since the lineup for Burlington's Discover Jazz Festival was recently announced [see Soundbites, page 10B], I figured it'd be a great week to review some of our homegrown jazz talent.

Pianist/composer/bandleader Dan Skea can be counted among the most active and accomplished artists on the local scene. He and his quartet - which includes soprano and tenor sax man Chris Peterman, bassist John Rivers and drummer Geza Carr - have just released a new disc, But That Ain't This, which displays the group's disciplined cool.

Skea worked in Vegas for three decades, playing sideman to the likes of Mel Torme and Doc Severinsen. Since relocating to Vermont in 2002, he's performed with local musicians in a variety of combinations, including Pine Street Jazz. Here, he shows off 14 original compositions that sparkle and swing with a relaxed confidence that only comes from experience.

Skea's touch on the ivories is remarkably articulate, and he plays with enthusiasm and clarity. He's not as rhythmically adventurous as, say, Dave Brubeck, and certainly less lyrical than Bill Evans. But there's plenty going on with Skea's colorful chording, and his compositional sense is topnotch.

The band is solid through and through - alternately playful and fluid, depending on the mood of the song. Saxophonist Peterman is a stone-cold ace on the horn, but I wish he'd play tenor more often. Maybe it's just a generational thing, but whenever I hear soprano sax, I always think of Kenny G. And that's no kind of fun.

Percussionist Carr deserves props for his dazzling cymbal work and unique tom rolls. It's tough for young jazzers to develop a unique instrumental style considering all that's come before, but Carr is well on his way to doing so. Bassist Rivers is excellent as always; his intuition and sensitivity shines through on track after track.

My favorite cuts include the dashing "Evidence," the dreamy and evocative "Pathways," and "Paint," which features a reflective, minor-key melody that would sound great as the theme to a romantically charged whodunit.

Everything about But That Ain't This is pro, from the recording quality to the exceptional playing. My only complaint is that it never quite transcends "dinner jazz." But if you're looking for mellow piano music that's impeccably executed, this disc should be perfect. Hear Skea and co. this Saturday at Parima in Burlington.