1. Monk / Trane
2. Messiaen's Gumbo
3. Sonny Side
6. Scenes from an Opera
7. Blues for Freddie
9. Joe Hen
10. Play Ball
11. Remembrance (for Michael Brecker)
John Patitucci - Acoustic bass, six-string electric bass, six-string
electric piccolo bass
Joe Lovano - Tenor sax, alto clarinet (tracks 1-10)
Brian Blade - Drums (tracks 1-10)
Rogerio Boccato - Percussion (tracks 2, 4, 5, 8)
Sachi Patitucci - Cello (track 6)
When I saw John Patitucci playing in London a few years ago with drummer
Roy Haynes, he was the bassist par excellence, doing everything
with supreme skill and grace. That was a trio (with Danilo Perez on
piano) and this new Patitucci album is also by a trio - but with a
saxophonist instead of a pianist. The line-up of sax, bass and drums
is unusual but not unprecedented. It has been used by (among others)
Sonny Rollins (who is saluted in track 3) and Joe Henderson (the inspiration
for track 9). John Patitucci gives the trio a slightly different sound
by bringing the bass into prominence.
On many tracks, John is the dominant player, although Joe Lovano
gets plenty of solo space. In fact it is a pleasure to hear the bass
so clearly without having to turn up the volume every time it is featured.
And Brian Blade is the perfect drummer for this setting: adding touches
of colour to slow numbers and propelling the beat on faster tunes.
In fact the three men work together admirably as a team - which originally
came together by accident more than seven years ago, when the pianist
couldn't turn up to a rehearsal and left the trio to discover how
much they enjoyed working in harmony.
The first track is a good example of the convoluted compositions
(which are all by John Patitucci). Sax and bass undertake a fragmentary
dialogue, with occasional punctuation from the drums. Yet the interplay
takes the listener on a fascinating journey - like working one's way
through a maze. Many tracks on the CD have a similar free feel, although
the composed elements avert the anarchy of some free improvisation.
Messiaen's Gumbo has the more user-friendly rhythm of jazz-rock,
laid down by bass and drums, with Joe Lovano adding decoration. Patitucci's
electric bass mostly converses with the percussion, arousing an anonymous
cry of delight halfway through. Lovano inserts some squeaks and swirling
phrases, but much of the track could pass as an example of "drum
Sonny Side is based on the chords of Sunny Side of the
Street and it strolls along in leisurely fashion. Lovano improvises
inventively, with hints of Sonny Rollins's fluency. In Meditations,
Patitucci makes his electric bass sound like a guitar, and Lovano
shadows him as they state the melody, which starts contemplatively
but hots up when Brian Blade's drums roll in.
Mali is underpinned by a bass ostinato and clattering Latin
percussion. The ostinato outstays its welcome by continuing for nearly
four minutes before turning into a bass solo. Scenes from an Opera
has "serious" stamped all over it, starting with arco double
bass and introducing alto clarinet from Joe Lovano. Presumably created
by overdubbing Patitucci's bass and his wife Sachi's cello, a string
octet provides a gentle backing and then thickens the texture almost
symphonically towards the end of the track.
Blues for Freddie is a jagged piece reminiscent of Thelonious
Monk in its ups and downs. Joe emphasises the tune's bluesy qualities,
and Brian Blade adds a drum solo which steers clear of obvious drummers'
tricks. Safari takes us on a rather eerie mystery tour, with
Lovano acting as guide. Joe Hen is more vigorous, paying homage
to saxist Joe Henderson especially through the powerful drums of Brian
Blade, who at one point is Lovano's only accompanist. Patitucci contributes
a lucid solo, as does Blade - whose drumming all the way through this
CD is as sharp as his surname.
After the sober ballad Play Ball, comes the most surprising
track of all: a short but astonishing duet by John Patitucci with
himself on electric bass and electric piccolo bass, making both instruments
resonate like guitars.
Some of the music on this album may not be instantly accessible,
but the participants hold the listener's attention with their empathy
and unity of purpose.