Although One Step Up is a local jazz quartet led by pianist Dan La Maestra, one ensemble size doesn't fit all the music found on its debut album. That's readily apparent on the opening and title track, "Just A Thought," a septet arrangement by core bandmember and reedman Rob Holmes. Colorful, vibrant and swinging, the tune consistently benefits from the harmonies and solos generated by the additional horns--baritone saxophonist Glen Wilson, alto saxophonist Marty Nau and fluegelhorn player Tom Palance.
La Maestra, a classically trained, Argentine-born pianist, often displays a sensitive and graceful touch in more intimate settings. He and Holmes exhibit a close rapport on the quartet arrangement of "A Delicate Balance," as each sustains a distinct yet complementary melody, and "A Colorful Tangent" finds the pianist and reedman deftly spinning a series of impressionistic designs with the subtle support of bassist Peter Revell and drummer Dominic Smith.
La Maestra composed five of the CD's 11 tunes, and devoted nearly the entire balance to a series of attractive pop and jazz standards. None of the melodies is more appealing than Alec Wilder's "While We're Young," freshened by a spacious and shimmering trio reprise. And none is more infectious than "Lavender Walk," a splendid showcase for Revell's resounding tone and blues-tinged finesse.
The ringer is "The Red and the Black," a tune composed by guitarist Peter Pieper, which showcases his cool-toned lyricism and saxophonist Peter Fraize's full-throated tenor sax. Like a lot of the performances on this album, it invites repeat plays.
Appearing Saturday at the Jazz Street Grill in Woodbridge.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Dan La Maestra and One Step Up, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8121. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)