Dean Taba can play bass. But he doesn’t have to show it off all the time. Listen to his 2003 CD — a kind of homage to the people and places that have touched his heart — For Friends. All 10 tracks in this intimate, mood musical CD is devoted to jazz as more than just an art form, but jazz as love notes.
The L.A./Hawaii artist put his CD together with the help of some mighty able-bodied, famous musician friends: Steve Huffsteter (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Manson (piano), Kendall Kay (drums), and Andy Suzuki (tenor, soprano, alto sax).
Most of the songs run about six to seven minutes long, although some run a bit longer in the mind of the average non-jazz listener. “It Hurts When I Do This (dedicated to mentor and former Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” bassist Joel Di Bartolo),” clocking in at six minutes, 59 seconds, seems to go on forever with mostly the horn section trying to navigate its way around some intricate chord progressions. Melodically, it can be a bit repetitious.
“Mr. D.T.,” however, is another long one, but well worth a listen from front to back, because it’s full of lots of musical solo and joint effort possibilities. This is one standout song that any jazz quartet worth its salt could jam the life out of at any late-night club gig. Saxophonist Andy Suzuki plays the hell out of his frontburner parts.
Another lengthy standout is “Folk Song #2,” Taba’s fourth track, devoted to his parents Clarence and Nancy. He felt the beginning went into an Asian folk song realm, but for me, it’s entirely a holiday album in one, seven minute, 48-second, reflective jazz carole. As is his ninth track, “For Friends” (10:03), which has a Seawindy, hip, finger-snapping 1940s San Francisco nightclub feel.
Other noteworthy, appealing and very different-sounding songs include: an ode to the lush piano, “Camarillo’s Daughter,” which can also be found in another incarnation in Taba’s 2007 “More Is More” CD; an ode to Hawaii’s Broadway sax star Allen Won, “Air,” with lots of West Side Story panache; a lightning fast-paced, toe-tapping ode to Hawaii’s answer to Buddy Rich, award-winning drummer Noel Okimoto with an “Up Side” down tribute; and Taba’s bass-rich heaviosity, “Here For You.”
For Friends is a major reason why other musicians have fallen in love with Dean Taba’s all-inclusive, diverse music and musicality. Fall in love with it yourself. Go pick up a copy.
Review originally appeared in Examiner Dec. 22, 2010.