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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

BassDrumBone / Jane Ira Bloom

BassDrumBone - The Long Road (Auricle, 2016) ****

By Paul Acquaro

BassDrumBone is celebrating their 40th year together - their journey began in 1977 at an impromptu gig in Connecticut - and they are celebrating their ruby anniversary with a gift to all of us, the generous double CD The Long Road. Like other long-standing trios (my mind wanders to the Schlippenbach Trio and The Necks), there is a spark and freshness that manifests when drummer Gerry Hemingway, trombonist Ray Anderson, and bassist Mark Helias get together. The members have also invited pianist Jason Moran and saxophonist Joe Lovano to help out on three tracks a piece.

The Long Road offers eleven new tracks and two live ones and kicks off with 'Oh Yeah', a jaunty number featuring a tightly executed and joyful melody. The follow up 'Bungle Low' introduces Moran and the tone already changes - it's an excellent modern jazz composition with a stylized slyness to it. Moran also plays a prominent role on 'Tone L', an abstract composition featuring splashes of piano and wisps of a forlorn trombone. The track 'Cherry Picking' features Lovano, who joins Anderson on a bop-inspired head that quickly jumps off into spirited solos.  However, when it's all said and done, it is the trio that shines the most. The track 'Quomput', for example,  thrives on the group's compact interactions and inspired playing. 40 years on and this trio continues to make exciting music!

Jane Ira Bloom - Early Americans (Out-line, 2016) ****

Bassist Mark Helias is also a third of Jane Ira Bloom's trio - he and the saxophonist have a history of collaboration going back to the 1970s, and they are joined on Bloom's Early Americans by drummer Bobby Previte. The album is a solidly enjoyable outing, a tight mix of modern compositions and sharp improvizations.

The first thing you hear on opener 'Song Patrol'  is a looping bassline complimented by lithe drum work. Then Bloom enters on soprano sax and the trio is in motion. The melody is gentle, Bloom's soprano sax tone is sweet, but with a bit of edge, and the song that quickly unfolds is kind of like a greeter at the door: it's accessible and welcoming. It is the second track, the presciently titled 'Dangerous Times', that begins to reveal that there much else in store. As Previte and Helias dive deep into a rhymic motif, Bloom skates above them playing near vocal passages, the high register of the sax contrasting wonderfully with the rich tone of the bass.

Overall, there is a bittersweet quality to the start of the album. As it progresses, the tracks pick up in intensity, like the compelling 'Hips & Sticks', and the album mid-point 'Rhyme or Rhythm,' which signals the change from the earlier folk-inspired jazz to something more biting.