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New album from David Sills

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    Posted: 15 Sep 2020 at 8:27pm

Los Angeles-based reed player DAVID SILLS is a prolific recording and performing artist. He is now releasing NATURAL LINES, his 17th CD as a leader. The album features seven of Sills' original compositions as well as tunes by Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Jimmy Davis, Alan Broadbent, and two of Sills' accompanists, guitarists LARRY KOONSE and MIKE SCOTT. The Los Angeles Times has said "The playing of tenor saxophonist David Sills has been described as a meeting of Stan Getz and Joe Henderson, a style in which smooth reserve and technical ability combine in a single cool-to-the-bone sound."
Sills is a Southern California native. Growing up in the South Bay, a region known for its beachbreak waves, he became an avid surfer at a young age. Sills' father was a talented amateur pianist with a broad knowledge of the Great American Songbook, and Sills grew up listening to big band music, which originally drew him to the sax.
Sills started studying sax when he was just 10 years old. He went on to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Saxophone Performance from California State University at Long Beach, where he studied with Leo Potts. He also began studying privately with reed master Gary Foster, whom Sills says was his most important mentor, who helped shape his musical direction. Sills studied with Foster for several years and has remained friends with him.
After graduating from college, Sills worked odd music jobs, including cruise ships, to develop his chops and performing experience. After a while, he decided to return to the Los Angeles area and recorded his first album Hangin' Five in 1995 for Resurgence Records, which featured Foster, who also appeared on several other of Sills' CDs. Sills cut three additional albums for the Naxos label.
Sills had been performing regularly and teaching privately, but after 9/11, work began to slow down, and he decided it would be a good time to get a graduate degree. He went to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he studied with Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, and Dick Oatts. He earned a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies and spent the next two years in New York, playing gigs around town with some of the great musicians who work in the city.
After coming back regularly to Southern California to visit his parents, Sills began to miss the weather and lifestyle. Still an avid surfer and having had enough of East Coast winters, he decided to it was time to move back home.
Sills puts out albums every other year and tours throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia with his band, the David Sills Quartet, and also performs with David Benoit, The Acoustic Jazz Quartet, Line Up, and The Liam Sillery Quintet.
Sills relates in his liner notes, "In recent years, most of my performances have taken place in venues in which no piano was available, so to fill the role of the missing piano, I began adding a second guitar. This instrumentation seemed to open up many musical possibilities and allowed for an interesting mix of sonic colors. Thus, the idea for this recording featuring a 'Double Guitar Quintet' was born."
Sills has always worked with top players for his many recordings, which he does once again on NATURAL LINES. Besides being one of Sills' oldest friends and a frequent collaborator, guitarist Larry Koonse is one of the most respected musicians on the West Coast. His lengthy performing and recording credits include Mel Tormé, Billy Childs, John Patitucci, Karrin Allyson, Luciana Souza, Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine, and Hubert Laws, among many others. With fellow guitarist Mike Scott, a founding member of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective and who has performed with Stevie Wonder at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the two guitarists create a rich tapestry for Sills to weave his rich and soulful sound. Rounding out the rhythm section are two top L.A. sidemen, BLAKE WHITE on bass and TIM PLEASANT on drums, both of whom work frequently with Sills.
The CD opens with "Minor Monk," written by Scott. It's a catchy tune with a solid groove. "Sync or Swim" was written by Koonse. Sills says, "It's a tradition for me to ask Larry to contribute a tune for my albums. He's such an interesting composer, and he always re-works the tune to fit with my playing style." "Sonny's Side," composed by Sills, is an homage to Sonny Rollins. Sills borrows some of Rollins' rhythm changes and licks for this number.
Sills found "Quiet is the Star" in a handwritten book of compositions by renowned composer and pianist Alan Broadbent, who gave Sills the book many years ago. Sills plays alto flute on the tune. Sills wanted a classic ballad for the CD and chose "Lover Man," a standard he's been playing for thirty years.
"Foggy Daze" is a contrafact of the standard "A Foggy Day." He had given an assignment to a student to write a new line for "A Foggy Day," and, as he often does the same assignments he gives to his students, he also created a new line for the tune, which he liked so much, he decided to include it on NATURAL LINES. "Mellow Stone" is another contrafact of "In a Mellow Tone," and the result is a mellow, loose, almost boozy tune.
"Nardis," the Miles Davis tune, again features Sills on alto flute. Sills wrote a new toe-tapping line for "Have You Met Miss Jones" for "Jones' Tones." "All the Little Things" is a free improvisation based on the structure of "All the Things You Are." The title "Outside Corner" is a surfing term that refers to large waves. He named the tune in honor of his experience surfing in Bali. Sills recorded "Interplay," a Bill Evans tune, on a previous album, which he played on flute. He wanted to record it again using the wider range of the alto flute.
David Sills is a cool musician with a warm tone and swinging, modern sound that's been honed over his very prolific career, both as a recording and performing artist. He's also a first-class composer, writing tunes that are harmonically rich with engaging, highly accessible melodies. He's joined on NATURAL LINES by top-notch musicians who possess the natural, empathic communication of friends who have worked together for many years.
NATURAL LINES was released September 11, 2020 and is available on all platforms.

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