Compatibility rules on guitarist Davy Mooney’s latest album, Hope of Home. With Mooney’s sophisticated style at the helm, the talented musicians here—reedman John Ellis, pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Brian Blade—follow his lead and also instigate new directions of their own.
Hope of Home, filled with classy material from Mooney’s pen, represents straight-ahead jazz as defined by a next generation of artists whose apparent goals are excellent execution presented with meaningful interplay. That is experienced from Cowherd’s big chord opening “Scarlatina.” It gets an extra tonal flair with Ellis, whose main ax is tenor saxophone, picking up the bass clarinet. Mooney’s fingers fly over the fretboard, though no note sounds superfluous. His playing throughout relies on imagination rather than licks. Mooney offers a gentle, poetic approach to his vocal on “Cold, Sober,” one of several tunes on which he sings.
Everyone becomes a star of Hope of Home and shining brightly is the brilliant drumming of Brian Blade. He boasts an appreciated light touch that masterfully also offers a sense of drama and dynamics to the ensemble. On the upbeat “Think So Little of Me,” Blade takes the opportunity for a solid solo that fits well with the tune’s melodic and rhythmic theme.
The drummer trades bars with Mooney on the fine “Ides of April,” as does Ellis, this time on tenor saxophone. In many ways, this tune feels like a series of duets between the bandmates with a strong spotlight on the impressive piano of Cowherd.
That brings us back to the obvious compatibility between the musicians on Hope of Home. Their sensitivity to each other and to Mooney’s compositions offers a certain comfort zone that is at once familiar and exciting.