There's no shortage of jazz bassists possessing distinctive voices with a bow. Few, however, have made Arco (the fine art of bowing the double-bass) their primary focus, with the exception of Terry Plumeri. Plumeri's never achieved his due in the jazz world, to some extent due to his parallel work in other spheresscoring for film, classical composition and interpreting the music of iconic composers like Tchaikovsky. Blue in Green (GMMC, 2005), featuring pianist David Goldblatt and drummer Joe La Barbera, proves Plumeri an astute interpreter of standard material, but, by emphasizing Arco as his primary voice, it also reveals him as an explorer of new territory for his instrument.
Plumeri's devotion to Arco goes back many years. The recently reissued Water Garden (GMMC, 2007) comes from a 1978 date with heavy hitters John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, and pianist Marc Copland (surely one of his earliest piano dates). He Who Lives in Many Places, reissued in 2006, comes from an earlier session still, a 1971 recording that didn't see initial release until 1976 and features an equally impressive line-up of Abercrombie, Herbie Hancock, Eric Gravatt and Michael Smith. Smith will be the least-known of the bunch, but at the time of this recording he was an astutely intuitive drummer who would ultimately play with a laundry list of well-known artists before his career tragically cut short in 2006 at the age of fifty-nine.
He Who Lives' five tracks are Plumeri's, but despite their compositional substance, there's plenty of freedom to go around. There are unmistakable reference points. Smith's persistent high hat at the start of "Underwater" is similar to Miles Davis' "Shhh/Peaceful" on In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), but things soon open up, more akin to Weather Report's 1971 eponymous Columbia debut. And while Plumeri's expressively singing Arco is a defining element, he's equally strong when he puts down the bow and hooks Smith hand-in-glove, creating a firm but pliant foundation for solos by Abercrombie and Hancock.
Abercrombie's voice was already unmistakable by this time, whether on Billy Cobham's fusion, David Liebman's culturally infused Lookout Farm (ECM, 1974) or Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's more avant leanings. Here he demonstrates the unique lyricism soon to emerge more audibly with a string of consistently outstanding albums on ECM.
He Who Lives's ethereal approach to free play would have been a perfect candidate for ECM. Even when things turn decidedly propulsive on the irregular funk of "Timeworn" and fiery free-bop of "Bees," Plumeri's overall musical landscape might have easily coexisted alongside Bennie Maupin's The Jewel in the Lotus (ECM, 1974).
He Who Lives in Many Places is an album that could very well have become a classic had it received widespread distribution and promotion. It's ripe with stylistic references to other recordings of its era, but with Plumeri's singular Arco voice pushing the envelope of his instrument, it's an album possessing its own distinct complexion, acknowledging the best albums of its time without being the least bit imitative.
Personnel: Terry Plumeri: acoustic bass; Herbie Hancock: acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes; Michael Smith: drums, percussion; John Abercrombie: electric guitar; Eric Gravatt: percussion.