John Patitucci Trio: Remembrance (2009)
It's true what they say: you can't judge an album by looking at the cover. Contrary to the mood suggested by the title and the monochrome sleeve shot of an autumnal city park, bassist John Patitucci's Remembrance is a warm and perky affair. The album is Patitucci's salute to some departed heroessaxophonists John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Michael Brecker, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Ali Farka Tourealong with a live one, saxophonist Sonny Rollins. There are poignant moments, notably the closing track, "Remembrance," dedicated to Brecker. But the prevailing mood is upbeat.
If you're going to record an album dedicated in part to Coltrane, Rollins, Henderson and Brecker, you're going to need a five-star, tradition-literate tenor saxophonist, and Patitucci has one. Joe Lovano variously suggests all four players, with more than a little Pharoah Sanders thrown in, without ever being merely literalist. He states most of the themes, his tone and phrasing taking on the hue of each tributee, and takes most of the solos, where he follows his own, expansive and lyrical line. Brian Blade, a balletically nimble drummer whose nuanced touch goes back to Max Roach rather than Kenny Clarke or Art Blakey, completes the core trio, soloing infrequently in the conventional sense but in constant invigorating dialog with the saxophone and bass.
Patitucci's wife, cellist Sachi Patitucci, guests on "Scenes From An Opera," on which Lovano plays bass clarinet, and percussionist Rogerio Boccato helps raise the funk on "Mali," dedicated to desert bluesman Farka Toure.
Patitucci's tunes and arrangements take in straight-ahead, new thing, funk and post-modern third stream and he variously plays acoustic bass, six-string electric bass and six-string electric piccolo bass. The opening "Monk/Trane" is based on the chords of Coltrane's early benchmark, "Giant Steps," and Lovano's exuberant, harmonics and broken-notes strewn solo blows away any funereal thoughts the packaging may have induced. Patitucci switches from acoustic to six-string electric bass for "Messaien's Gumbo," a piece of tumescent, ostinato-driven funk which has more to do with The Meters than it does with classical composer Olivier Messaien. The third track, "Sonny's Side," is a lighthearted mid-tempo ballad in which Rollins the calypsonian hovers on the edge of the stage.
And so the rainbow of ambiances and references continues for another seven engaging tracks. The album ends with the unaccompanied, layered electric basses title track, a hauntingly beautiful little treasure on which the piccolo bass takes on the character of a 12-string guitar, and which evokes Blade's work with hi-tech guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel. There isn't a single dud along the way, but justice demands that the gritty "Mali," on which Lovano's fractured timbres evoke Pharoah Sanders' Africanized masterpiece Tauhid (Impulse!, 1967), gets special mention.
Track Listing: Monk/Trane; Messaien's Gumbo; Sonny Side; Meditations; Mali; Scenes From An Opera; Blues For Freddie; Safari; Joe Hen; Play Ball; Remembrance.
Personnel: Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; John Patitucci: double-bass, six-string electric bass, six-string electric piccolo bass; Brian Blade: drums; Sachi Patitucci: cello (6); Rogerio Boccato: percussion (5).