Dr. Dave and His HouseCall Band Administer Contemporary Jazz Tonic for Pandemic Stress
Voluptuously melodic in all the soft places, the lyrical guitarist revisits his 2014 release, ‘Carefree,’ with a full band in tow
“By altering the arrangements - some subtly, some more dramatically, we added the vibrant HouseCall Band aesthetic to the mix.”
Dr. Dave and the HouseCall Band’s upcoming Carefree Revisited is just the tonic needed after a two-year-plus run of this terrifying, isolating, infernal pandemic.
Dripping with voluptuous, lyrical melodies, slipping in and out of light bluesy-funk-rock and undulating, contemporary jazz consciousness…their 11-track album comes out March 4, 2022 on Hatherill Records.
Meant to ease stress and return the listener to a world full of boundless freedom, evocative movement, and simple pleasures, Carefree Revisited calls upon a whiff of Steely Dan righteousness (“Heck No!”) in the horns (John Rekevics, Derek Cannon), the exotic escapism of Caribbean-flecked marimba (Bill Harris), and Dr. Dave’s flickering, strum-laced glory, tying the billowing threads together.
Dr. Dave and the HouseCall Band keep more than pleasant company on 10 updated tracks from the contemporary jazz guitarist’s original 2014 album, Carefree.
In place of just a guitar, a beat, and a piano pulse, there’s an abbreviated orchestra — and a lot of fresh horn arrangements from Rekevics (sax, flute) waiting to soar.
“John added some amazing flute parts that didn’t exist before, which help further define the songs and enhance my guitar solos. He did an incredible job texturing the tracks with his alto, soprano, baritone, and tenor sax,” Dr. Dave notes.
The difference — from the spirited, syncopated “‘C’ Jam Blues” to Ignacio “Nacho” Sobers’ aromatic, rap-reggae-jazz-scat vocal cover of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — is night and day.
“For the first time in my career, there was a newness and excitement that paved the way for me to further develop the concept of the HouseCall Band,” producer/co-writer Dr. Dave explains. “It dawned on me that it was that dynamic full-band vibe that was missing from Carefree — especially that full-bodied horn section energy. By altering the arrangements — some subtly, some more dramatically, we added the vibrant HouseCall Band aesthetic to the mix.”
Dr. Dave and the HouseCall Band’s first collective recording project, Midnight Daydream in 2018, proved that less isn’t always more.
More could be, well, better in the right hands.
The musicians of the HouseCall Band served only to enhance Dr. Dave’s dynamic musicality. They are saxophonist/flutist John Rekevics; trumpeter Derek Cannon; bassist Cecil McBee Jr.; keyboardists Kevin Flournoy, Larry Logan, and Rob Whitlock; percussionists Ronnie Stewart, Duncan Moore, and Tommy Aros; marimba player Bill Harris; guitarists Hank Easton and Steve Wilcox; and vocalists Stellita Porter, Jackie Bonaparte, and Ignacio “Nacho” Sobers.
Dr. Dave’s five original tunes (“Carefree,” “Almost Trinidad,” “G.B. Style,” “Sylvia,” “Heck No!”) and six covers max out the rhythmic play, harmonic intersectionality, and surging, cresting, wave-like movements inherent in compelling contemporary jazz.
Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” takes the place of Dr. Dave’s “Cecil’s Groove” from the original Carefree album. Their modern cover’s a cruising, nostalgic vocal/instrumental ride past percolating bumps, grooves, and turns — muted trumpet, bell-ringing keys, and electrified, hummingbird strings trip over lovely entanglements. Vocalists Porter and Bonaparte imbue the timeless classic with stylish, wink-and-a-nod reverence, riffing only slightly on the title.
The title track carries a bit of Steely Dan in the horn and keyboard notes, swirled around with Dr. Dave’s trademarked lyricism, and a splash of the rum-soaked Caribbean — crystalline blue skies and twinkling, starry, starry nights — in a bit of marimba.
“Almost Trinidad” traces the sad, sultry love songs of the ‘80s-‘90s where romance and lust burn into pop inspiration. Go West’s Indian Summer and Steely Dan’s conflagrated, best-of innuendo, buried in the burst pipes of the keyboard lead, come to mind. Pop wanting to go terribly jazz and blues. Listen to Go West’s “Still In Love” and Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” to see what I’m talking about.
Dr. Dave and the HouseCall Band stalk their way toward the Beatles’ comely, come-hither honey pot, “Come Together,” heart and head on their sleeve. The remake maintains much the same melodic structure, with a few sparkly accents — the background vocal “Come on,” the horn-on-horn flourishes, the curiously inventive keynote address.
They proceed to gut the bubblegum-pop-to-brocade-rock transference/earnestness of the 1969 Abbey Road track, on the cusp of revolution and enlightenment…smoothing over the anthem’s youthful ideals into an almost sensual make-out session. Dr. Dave pulls key melodic phrases from the original pop song, deepening, expanding, riffing over its spare parts, as if searching for untapped gold…something to remember.
They pull, prod, pronounce, and pounce on a singular repeat riff in “‘C’ Jam Blues.” Curlicue guitar, spiky, stabby horns, rain-dance keys spread out, co-creating mini-spectacles, the flotsam of forgotten harmonies laid bare and adorned in ‘70s shards.
“Late Night with Dr. Dave” shares the same quirky, almost cartoonish vibe of a sitcom comedy. Namely, Jesse Frederick’s 1980s “Full House” theme song, “Everywhere You Look,” especially the goofy opening line, “Whatever happened to predictability?...” The Carefree Revisited makers mark their spots and then circle around the same musical theme, giving Dr. Dave a place to hang his hat and go off-script, ripping the straightforward melody in rippling grooves.
The band will release Dr. Dave’s “G.B. Style” as a radio single ahead of the album Jan. 24. Co-written with the late R&B legend George Benson’s deceptively easy-flowing, complexly-rendered grooves in mind, Dr. Dave amasses the entire band’s arsenal to encompass the same breezy, stirring feel with substance. A Greatest Hits tribute, sped up in real time.
Perhaps the most noteworthy track off the album, “Sylvia” manages to sound pop-pretty and jazz-divergent. It’s a tricky balance between slow-dance-ready and echo-dense, heft behind the luxuriously streaming rhapsodic and the cinematic scope inherent whenever two or more horn players gather in a studio, drifting toward forever. Several layers and threads join, intersect, and dissipate from Dr. Dave’s entrancing command, the haunting lift of a female voice at the end, whisper-calling/memorializing Sylvia’s name.
“Heck No!”…where the deflowering floral narratives of Steely Dan-esque horns/keys and Dr. Dave’s stringed seduction do-si-do in a kind of fusion square dance, a give-and-take show-and-tell.
Dr. Dave sets the melody, and the rhythm section makes off with the harmonic goods, each seeing what they can do, how far they can go, and still ride the bluesy dragon home. Eventually.
There’s a vocal song dying to get out in “Feels So Good.” Precise, distinct, runaway melody captured/reverberated in a clarion call on piano and strings. Dr. Dave stokes each and every note into an in-depth variable, a transparent, tuneful fleshing out all its own, a vortex of call-and-response taken to intensive levels.
“Looking at what’s happened in the world these past two years, perhaps there was a reason I waited to revisit Carefree until now. Life is more stressful than ever, and the music on the album is my contribution to alleviating it for a little while for those who listen. Specifically, Carefree Revisited is about making music people can enjoy as a way to get away from their troubles — and finally producing it the way it was always meant to be done.”
Artist quotes from a press release by GREAT SCOTT P.R.ODUCTIONS.