At first glance at the credits and when you hear the seamless yet dynamic interaction between the sax and flute of veteran, internationally renowned reedman David Sills and the distinctive voices of storied guitarists Mike Scott and Larry Koonse, you might think he created by insightful design this fresh, revolutionary idea of infusing a swinging jazz ensemble with dual axes. Since both have recorded extensively with Sills in the past, it seems like a logical extension of the alternately playfully frenetic and sultry and soulful style Sills has mastered with his core trio of bassist Blake White and Tim Pleasant.
Ironically, the real story fits more into the proverbial “necessity is the mother of invention” aesthetic. As Sills explains in his liner notes, “In recent years, most of my performances have taken place in venues where no pianos were available, so to fill the role of the missing piano, I began adding a second guitar.” The opportunity to explore new sonic possibilities sparked the idea of creating a “Double Guitar Quintet” recording – on one hand so bold and innovative, on the other, offering a burst of crackling melodic and harmonic energy and effortless camaraderie with pure, organic roots.
Sills is technically the leader, and shines throughout on both instruments, most invitingly on the whimsical flute melody and improv at the forefront of the lilting arrangement of the delightful, samba flavored Alan Broadbent obscurity “Quiet is the Star.” He also penned five of the originals, including a spirited tribute to Sonny Rollins (“Sonny’s Side”), the barnburner “Foggy Daze” and the moody meditation “Mellow Stone.”
At its heart, however, Natural Lines is a tradin’ fours democracy, with original tunes also contributed and driven by Scott (the punchy opener “Minor Monk”) and Koonse (the soulfully strutting “Sync or Swim.” Complementing new arrangements of classics by Miles Davis (“Nardis”) and Bill Evans (“Interplay”), the three join forces to compose and perform the hypnotic and experimental free improvisation “All The Little Things” with no rhythm accompaniment.