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Mark Egan: As We Speak (2006)

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Mark Egan: As We Speak How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Given Mark Egan's long and deep involvement with the commercial end of the music business (as evidenced by a long resume of session credits in the jazz and pop worlds), the personality of this record is perhaps surprising. As We Speak is essentially a blowing session, with no overdubs or big production numbers. Not that there's anything wrong with that; indeed, the format, a necessary complement to Egan's other activities, is doing the leader a world of good. And not just a blowing session: the compositions are all originals (save a snappy "Alone Together," on which guitarist John Abercrombie is clearly enjoying himself) and the unobtrusive arrangements show signs of careful premeditation.

A lot of your response to this record depends on how much you like the somewhat elastic sound of the fretless electric bass; it's essentially one portion of the tonal palette favored by Jaco Pastorious (recall "Dream Clock," from Weather Report's Night Passage (CBS, 1980), except that Egan's tone is, if anything, more spongiform than Jaco's). Egan never hogs the limelight, providing lots of space for Abercrombie's well-known sound and Danny Gottlieb's drumming from out of the Jack DeJohnette school. The concentration of the trio's interplay is impressively sustained over a long set.

Much of the record is given over to slightly moody, slow numbers that give the players space in which to develop ideas. Many tracks—"Your Sweet Way," "Shade and Shadows," "Three Way Mirror," "Plane to the Trane" (which quotes, elliptically, its dedicatee's "Naima")—feature the leader's statement of the theme, preceded or followed by Abercrombie's limpid, deft interpretation. But there is plenty of variety in the set, from the Monkish "Depraw "—available as a free download at AAJ some days back—to the free-ish collective sketches "Time Out," "Next Left" and "Dream Sequence."

The recording is a little long, stretched as it is over two CDs, but then again if I could get John Abercrombie to play for two hours on my gig without any signs of running out of ideas and energy, and if furthermore I ran the record company (As We Speak is released on Egan's own Wavetone label), well... I'd probably put out a two-disc set, too.

Track Listing: CD1: Spirals; As We Speak; Vanishing Point; Mississippi Nights; Alone Together; Your Sweet Way; Three-Way Mirror; Tone Poem for My Father. CD2: Shade and Shadows; Next Left; Dream Sequence; Depraw; Stiletto; Plane to Trane; Time Out; Summer Sand.

Personnel: Mark Egan: fretless electric bass; John Abercrombie: guitar; Danny Gottlieb: drums.

Record Label: Wavetone Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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