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JAZZ REVIEW | John Dokes "Our Day" by Jeff Cebulski


Our Day

John Dokes

Swing Theory Entertainment, 2024

By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2


On his new album Our Day, Chicago’s smooth-as-silk baritone John Dokes is good enough to have it both ways, at least on one number, the closing “Everything Must Change.” Similar to his previous version on True Love, Dokes pleases the ear with his Billy Eskstine/Joe Williams crooning, proving nothing has to change. Yet, on Our Day, things do change. The singer switches from his quintet to a nonet in a move toward the big band sound he originally dabbled in with conductor George Gee. Thus, “Everything Must Change” does change from an understated R&B piece to a springier expression, with Gee’s horn line front and center.


For his part, Dokes seems to be enjoying the return to his original format, and he expands his delivery in several selections to mesh with the percussive thrust.


Meanwhile, Dokes’ medium tempo preference makes for good dancing, and the general positive ambiance of the new album should attract hoofers old and new.

The general mood is pronounced immediately as Chris Latona’s beat signals the arrival of the horns, arranged as one mighty unit a la Basie, on “Our Day Will Come.” Dokes means to amplify the “our,” as a way to rally his audience toward a post-COVID renewal. The singer’s breezy, swinging style, coupled with the band, brought back memories of Williams performing on The Tonight Show with Doc Severinsen’s Orchestra. Led by pianist Steve Einerson, the instrumental bridge serves as an appropriate introduction to the arrangement context.


Dokes keeps swinging in a blues style on “Moanin’,” singing Bobby Timmons’ lyric to the Benny Golson classic. Kudos to alto saxophonist Anthony Nelson Jr. and trombonist, arranger and longtime contributor David Gibson for sterling solos. One also notes the presence of baritone saxophonist Patience Higgins in many of the horn flourishes throughout the album.


“Suddenly” continues the exuberance, as Dokes proclaims the wonderful surprise of new love. Here the singer approaches the shout of Jimmy Rushing. Trumpeter Andy Gravish gets his solo opportunity.


A sure crowd pleaser, things move quicker on “Almost Like Being in Love.” Alto saxophonist Anthony Nelson Jr. answers the call in a ringing solo.


The semi-slow dance number “I Will Wait for You” benefits from a scintillating Gee arrangement and Dokes’ Williams-like performance, a sing/talk delivery that walks in tandem with the bluesy material. Michael Hashim is stellar in his solo.


The jazziest entry is probably Dokes’ very-Williamsesque vocalese on Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay.” Supplemented by Higgins’ baritone, Dokes delivers Mark Murphy’s lyrics in conjunction with the rhythm section. The pop classic “L-O-V-E” follows. The song is rendered in a soft bossa form, punctuated by Gee’s angular horn bursts.


Dokes and Gee avoid the traditional cloying sentimentality of “Don’t Blame Me” by altering the melody with minor key understatement; again, Williams’s influence is evident. The horns scream for attention as Einerson rides the wave with a colloquial solo. On “This Can’t Be Love” the soft swing arrangement augments Dokes succinct lyrical statement as an introduction to more magic from the band, especially Hendrix. Dokes nicely loosens up during the last chorus.


John Dokes has certainly found a home in the Windy City, where his breezy and upbeat manner attracts a loyal audience in local establishments. Our Day gives his fans another way to appreciate his continuance of a modern vocal style while reminding us of the formidable talent David Gibson possesses. That horn line is welcome, anytime.


John Dokes, Our Day. Swing Theory Entertainment, 2024


John Dokes, vocals

George Gee, conductor

Anthony Nelson Jr., alto saxophone 

Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone 

Patience Higgins, baritone saxophone 

Freddie Hendrix, trumpet 

Andy Gravish, trumpet 

David Gibson, trombone/arranger

Steve Einerson, piano

Malik McLaurine, acoustic bass

Chris Latona, drums



About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at jeff@chicagojazz.com

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