Any session led by a double-bassist has to have pizzazz to work. Ari Roland proves this axiom true as he solos with authority, walks the bass for a confident rhythmic foundation, and encourages his sidemen to turn it loose. From New York, just over thirty, and a standard fixture at Smalls, Roland finds it easy to communicate with other straight-ahead musicians and his audience. It's natural. He speaks through his instrument. With his quartet, he explores melodies that present a casual mood.
Roland wrote seven of the ten compositions on Sketches; the other three come from jazz's extensive mainstream repertoire. The bassist works comfortably with tenor soloist Chris Byars and pianist Sacha Perry, who stretch out often. Drummer Phil Stewart helps Roland mind the store, stepping up to the plate on occasion to solo.
Roland loves to use the bow. It allows him room to express lyrically and seamlessly. In this way, he's able to share the melodic spirit intelligently. "Mensch Blues," a slow, simmering anthem with walking bass and heartfelt outpourings from tenor, piano, and bowed bass, represents a dedication to Roland's teacher, Homer Mensch. It's obvious that the teacher intended for his student to show what he feels through music. While the bowed bass pattern becomes muddy in spots, the message is there. Roland plays with emotion.
Chris Byars and Sacha Perry swing hard throughout the session. Both gentlemen solo eloquently and comp behind the leader when called upon. Roland inserts an arco bass solo into nearly every track. "Thou Swell" is no exception, as tenor, piano and bass wend their way through individual melodic improvisations intended to expose lyric beauty. It works.
Both predictable and reliable, Roland and company carry on the straight-ahead tradition with spirit. This contribution keeps the ball rolling from one generation to the next.
Personnel: Ari Roland: bass; Chris Byars: tenor saxophone; Sacha Perry: piano; Phil Stewart: drums.