A Commanding Way With Swing

Jesse Davis is a formidable alto saxophonist, and Second Nature should propel him into the front ranks.

Accompanied by the Massimo Farao Trio, a group he tours with in Italy, the New Orleans horn player starts the recording with a playful but intense version of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" (RealAudio excerpt), which quickly establishes a pattern of firm and determined elegance. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (RealAudio excerpt) is followed by "Tommaso," written by pianist Massimo Faroa as a dedication to his son. The tune finds each bandmember swinging in the most casual but commanding way possible.

Drummer Massimo "Max" Dall'omocq is impressive throughout, particularly on "Max the Mensch" (RealAudio excerpt). With one of the most egoless drumming techniques in jazz, he manages to knit the rhythm section together perfectly, tempering his own voice for the sake of the whole.

But it's Davis that exudes the most authority, especially on "For Duke," a tribute to Ellington. On "Marta's Samba" he gives us a tour of his Latin side. And he proves to be an excellent guide.