David Garfield – Jazz: Outside the Box (2018)

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David Garfield, the guiding light for the jazz-fusion band Karizma, unveils Jazz: Outside the Box on March 23, 2018. He’s not one to stand still as he’s an in-demand player, and has been musical director for George Benson, as well as a solo star in his own right.

Jazz: Outside the Box is a labor of love for the Los Angeles-based keyboardist. He has recorded more than four discs worth of music for the on-going Outside the Box project. Jazz: Outside the Box follows three singles released in 2017: A cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Go Home” featuring Kirk Whalum and Paul Jackson Jr.; “Jamming,” a Bob Marley cover with Mike Campbell; and the original tune “I Lied” he co-wrote with Smokey Robinson for vocalist J. Paris.

The Sting classic “Fragile” kicks things off in fine form. David Garfield’s piano centered arrangement is elegant. Touches of percussion by Kevin Ricard and acoustic bass by Carlos del Puerto move things along, while vocalist Michael McDonald provides an understated charm which is perfectly fitting. John Clayton arranged and conducted the string section on this, and it majestically intertwines with the song.

“In a Sentimental Mood” adds a Latin jazz flavor as percussionist and bandleader Poncho Sanchez adds congas, shakers and his unmistakable flare to bring the proceedings to a simmer. Garfield’s acoustic piano supports the tenor saxophone and trumpet, while the vibraphone toys with the melody. Garfield’s production and arranging allow each player to shine, while they support the song.

Joe Porcaro and Robbie Wyckoff get the same opportunity. Their interpretation of “Roxanne” defies expectations. The trumpet kicks of this song’s melodic core, before the band swings into the familiar tension of the song. Touches of Hammond B-3 support David Garfield’s piano. The band is in full swing mode before the backing vocals enter to support the musical bliss. Wyckoff’s lead vocal is perfect as it never attempts to replicate the original, and Porcaro’s drums (instead of his usual percussion additions) are always a welcome addition to any song. Carmen Grillo fills out the vocals to make this even more of a treat.

Bass, piano and guitar dance with each other in “Rainbow Seeker,” a Joe Sample composition. The late Chuck Loeb provides delicate leads as his electric guitar works magic with the melody. Steve Jordon reminds everyone why he’s so many artists’ first-call drummer. Garfield’s piano, Loeb’s guitar and Jordon’s drums conspire to lift the song to the stars.

Joe Porcaro returns on “Stolen Moments” but, this time, Tom Scott’s tenor is Porcaro’s and Garfield’s playmate. The song’s slow methodical groove is supported by a big band horn chart that flaunts jazz tradition while bringing in something new. Again, Garfield shows off his arranging chops as tenor sax, alto, baritone weave seamlessly with trombone and trumpet. Scott’s tenor solo smokes, as he moves the tempo forward.

The horns have a Steely Dan-meets-Chicago flare, with Chuck Findley and Nick Lane adding trumpet and trombone, respectively. Original Steely Dan guitarist Denny Dias makes a surprise and welcome appearance, going on a series of fluid runs. By the time David Garfield weaves in his acoustic solo, you can’t help but realize the song – and, indeed, all of Garfield’s Jazz: Outside the Box – is something special.

“Sophisticated Lady” features Sanchez again on congas, and an understated lead male vocal. Garfield ties in a full horn section but leaves solo space for the great Pete Christlieb. Christlieb does not disappoint as his bars of pure jazz delight hover above Sanchez’s conga and Garfield’s piano like angels above the clouds.

Karizma members Michael Landau and Vinnie Colaiuta make an appearance on “Prophecy.” The song has a fusion feel with an early drum solo by Colaiuta, nice chunky guitar fills by Landau and a mid-song solo. David Garfield sticks with his acoustic piano as the song builds, yet “Prophecy” seems almost out of place surrounded by the more contemporary jazz selections.

Jason Scheff, the long-time former bassist of Chicago, shows off his considerable jazz chops to “Song For My Father.” His bass is melodic, as its dances with Doors drummer John Densmore’s laid back rim work. Scheff also takes a turn at the mic, lending his unmistakable tenor to the mix. Denny Dias is also along for the ride. Dias, who appears on Garfield’s Porcaro-related Tribute to Jeff album is as tasteful as ever, adding even a touch of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” to the melody – even if he didn’t play on that Steely Dan song. The song’s samba beat adds another dimension to Jazz: Outside the Box, which at 17 songs covers a lot of ground.

Jazz: Outside the Box is a fascinating and often exhilarating look at David Garfield’s vision of straight-ahead jazz. Yet it’s only a tease as Garfield plans three more Outside the Box releases covering contemporary jazz, voice and fusion. If Jazz: Outside the Box is any indication, we are in for a treat.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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