Jazz isn’t normally considered a radio-friendly genre, but guitarist Mark Elf is bent on changing that perception — so much so, in fact, that his new album, “Over the Airwaves,” is dedicated to stations that have been particularly supportive of his career. It’s as a nice idea, but Elf gets so bogged down in personalizing the numbers, many of which were showcased at this hometown record release party, that they begin to sound more like jingles than compositions.
Elf possesses both a fluid style and warm tone — not to mention a flair for choosing cover material that showcases both those attributes. Unfortunately, his compositional skills don’t measure up, setting his originals in unflattering relief against the impressively wide range of standards that framed his 70-minute set.
The trio started impressively enough, gliding through a nicely decked-out rendition of “Stomping at the Savoy,” during which Elf mirrored his fleet fingering with a barrage of joyful, guileless scatting. Even more interesting was his tender take on “It Might as Well Be Spring,” which emerged softly swinging from a feathery solo intro that demonstrated Elf’s facility with Django Reinhardt-style harmonics.
That sense of subtlety was lacking, however, in intervening originals like “On at KLON” and “In Three for Bob P.,” both dominated by Elf’s hyperactive, convoluted soloing. The latter song’s bluster was especially annoying, since several promising ideas were glossed over in the quest for flash.
At set’s end, Elf listed back to time-tested material, dusting off “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” with the delicate touch of a sommelier pouring an ancient cognac — then promptly slipping into a properly intoxicated mood for a sassy version of Clifford Brown’s “Clifford Speaks.” The upgrade was palpable enough to make one think Elf should stick to the standards: As many of his predecessors have proven, there’s no shame in that.