Michael Bisio and Bob Nell: Connections and Soft & Bronze
Michael Bisio Quartet
Originally from New York State, Bisio has been a vital fixture on the Seattle scene for three decades. With over a half dozen highly recommended sessions as leader, his work has been likened to David Izenzon, Charlie Haden and Mingus and for good reason.
Recorded early this year, Connections features eight tunes, most hovering around five minutes, excepting the 15 and 20-minute pieces "Basic Deconstruction and "History of a Mystery. Bisio's tunes make up the entire session apart from the moody Bisio/Jay Rosen bass and mallets duo of Coltrane's "A Drum Thing and "Basic Deconstruction, the only full collective improvisation and the centerpiece of the session. The two horn frontline begins with Avram Fefer (alto, soprano, tenor, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute) opening on clarinet (later flute) and tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci playing bowed bass-like passages, each complemented by an intense backdrop of harmonic and rhythmic colors and patterns. The piece culminates with Bisio's quick plucked acoustic effects and almost-as-if-intended collapse of his bass' bridge! It was only the beginning to a musical journey (not to mention emergency instrument surgery) that brought obvious unplanned adversity but no inklings of hesitancy.
Always the makings of great musicadversity is! The CD ends with three duos: "Drum Thing followed by the fruit of the second day's Fefer/Bisio duo session: an alternate non-quartet rendition of "Zephyr and "Sometimes I Feel.
Soft & Bronze
Bisio plays a significant role in Bob Nell's Soft & Bronze, a tight piano trio (with drummer Brad Edwards). The two are longtime Pacific Northwest collaborators; Nell is one of Montana's greatest jazz constituents with a recording career that goes back to the late '70s. The threesome traverse straight ahead and modal, treating up-tempo and ballad numbers (all Nell's original compositions) with equally convincing force.
Bisio's woody full sound is exquisitely captured throughout the trio passages and particularly his many melodic and harmonically sophisticated solos. Edwards carries the momentum in a driving manner (the McCoy Tyner-esque "Triumphant Thoroughfare ), yet also plays with a calming intensity and sensitivity without resorting to rhythmic patterns but rather ever-evolving yet swinging musical bursts of momentum, equal attention given to all parts of his kit.
"Song for Aria, with its Alice Coltrane-like piano intro, covers both these admirable facets within its first ten seconds, quickly settling into a melodically subdued performance that begs for vocals with its lyrical nature. The CD culminates in jazz-like fashion with two very distinct takes of "Blues for KB.
Tracks: Blue State; Basic Deconstruction; History of a Mystery; Swa Swu Swi; Zephyr; Drum Thing; Sometimes I Feel; Zephyr.
Personnel: Michael Bisio: bass; Avram Fefer: alto, soprano, and tenor saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Stephen Gauci: tenor sax; Jay Rosen: drums.
Soft & Bronze
Tracks: 808 Express; Soft & Bronze; Triumphant Thoroughfare; Milo's Blues; Song for Aria; Steve's Revenge; Blues for KB Take 1; Blues for KB Take 3.
Personnel: Bob Nell: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Brad Edwards: drums.