The opening fifty seconds of unaccompanied bass-playing on "Chasing Shadows," the title track, demonstrate beyond a doubt that Tony Grey is an exceptional talent, finely balancing technical prowess with musical creativity. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that one of his early teachers was guitarist John McLaughlin. Grey has played with an impressive list of jazz musicians and gained international success as part of pianist Hiromi Uehara's electrifying trio. Chasing Shadows
, his second solo project, helps cement his growing reputation as composer and leader, and further stresses his status as one of the premier electric bassists today.
Melody is evidently of great importance to Grey, and several of the tunes have a dulcet, upbeat vibe not unlike the Yellow Jackets, or much of Pat Metheny Group's output. Such comparisons are due in part to the contributions of pianist Oli Rockberger, whose melodic, refined style lies somewhere between Russell Ferrante and Lyle Mays, respective keyboardists of the aforementioned groups. Echoes of Metheny's sound are also suggested by the presence on several tracks of harmonicist Gregoire Maret, who lent his distinctive, high-register sound to the Missouri guitarist's album The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005).
The hooks and melodies, however, only begin to hint at the music on Chasing Shadows, which is many-layered. Each listening throws up fresh nuances and reveals the sophistication of Grey's compositions. Strong writing is matched by top-notch performances from the excellent musicians involved.
Three drummers are employed: Martin Valihora, also from Hiromi's trio, fills in on the title track; and for the rest of the album the drum stool is filled by either Chris Dave or Ronald Bruner Jr. Dave's uncluttered, crisp style lends a direct, almost popish air to tunes like the quite lovely "Guiding Light," whereas Ronald Bruner Jr.'s approach to the drums, particularly on the challenging "No Man's Land" and the closing segment of "Peace of Mind," is more animated.
In-demand guitarist Lionel Loueke brings a flavor of Benin on the elegant, dancing "One of Those Lives," and Hiromi shines on the moody "Dark Within," her trademark racing-runs contrasting nicely with the slightly more economical approach of guitarist Tim Miller. On "No Man's Land," Miller executes arresting Holdsworth-type lines in an extended exchange with Grey. No matter at what tempo he's playing, Grey's articulation is exemplary, each note carrying its own weight. At the relatively young age of 33, one wonders just how far Tony Grey can push his instrument, as presently it would seem that there are only a handful of electric bassists quite as fluent and creative as him.
As composer, Grey displays the same attributes of imagination, taste and craftsmanship which he does in his playing. This is music which appeals to the ear, the feet and brain alike, and it's a winning combination.
Personnel: Tony Grey: bass; Chris Dave: drums (1,3,5,7); Ronald Bruner, Jr: drums (4,6,8,9); Martin Valihora: drums (2); Oliver Rockberger: piano, keyboards; Hiromi: piano (7); Tim Miller: guitar (4,7); John Shannon: guitar (9); Lionel Loueke: guitar(6,8); Elliot Mason: trombone (5), bass trumpet (1,4); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (1,3,5); Bob Reynolds: soprano saxophone (2), tenor saxophone (8); Dan Brantigan: trumpet (3).