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Ron Brendle Quartet: A Tribute to the Bassists of Jazz

Martin McFie By

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Ron Brendle pays his own tribute to the music of the greatest bass players, bringing the heartbeat bass line of jazz out onto the front line in his new album A Tribute to the Bassists of Jazz. Brendle continues his mission to reveal and revere the great jazz compositions by bass players by bringing them together, all in one recording. The bassist's perspective is different; they hear the melody while playing mirroring sounds. Bassists' compositions start from their own world, the foundation of the rhythmic groove. They build the melody on top of the foundation.

We normally imagine work in a recording studio as peaceful and secluded. Not so on this recording—pianist Keith Davis had to dash to the studio as a last minute substitute, adding a rush of adrenaline to the recording for Troy Conn on guitar, John Spurrier on drums and Ron Brendle on bass.

Charlie Haden was an important mentor for Brendle. It was Haden who inspired his shift from guitar to bass. That association is celebrated by playing Haden's composition "Pocket full of Cherry" which was featured on a Keith Jarrett Silence (Grp Records, 1992). The contributions and compositions of Ray Brown are recognized in "Gravy Waltz," best remembered as the theme tune from the Steve Allen TV show. The work of wonderfully prolific composer Sam Jones is recalled in "Seven Minds" a tune from a recording by saxophonist Clifford Jordan entitled The Highest Mountain (SteepleChase, 1975). Sam Jones played bass with Cannonball Adderley for much of his career.

Scott LaFaro rose briefly to fame as bassist for the Bill Evans Trio which included Paul Motian on drums. LaFaro wrote "Gloria's Step," the foot-fall sound his girlfriend made on the stair, for the recording of Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961). The intimate level of understanding between the members of that trio made the recording an unsurpassed transition from live to recorded music. Both Evans and LaFaro shared a walk up and play now attItude. That 1961 recording was the last time the trio played together. Scott LaFaro died in a car crash ten days later, he was 25 years old.

Dave Holland played bass for Miles Davis late in the 1960s and composed "Jumpin' In" which he generously dedicated to the troubled genius of Charles Mingus. Brendle givese "Reincarnation of a LoveBird" a funk treatment at the outset moving into swing as the tune progressed. It was written by Charles Mingus, the explosive, temperamental bass giant of our time. "Ode to Tomten" has haunted Brendle ever since he first heard the composer Gary Peacock's avant-garde album Voices from the Past: Paradigm (ECM, 1981). Peacock has been a consistent fixture on bass with the Keith Jarrett Trio for many years. Steve Swallow plays electric bass now. He composed "Ladies in Mercedes" It was first released in 1985 by the Gary Burton quartet.

The selection of this collection of composers who are bassists shines a spotlight on the back line, reminding us of the importance of the guys who hold down the rhythm. Their dedication to holding a mirror to the melody and unique perspective on the groove set the tone for all of our jazz.

Track Listing: Seven Minds; Gravy Waltz; Pocket Full of Cherry; Gloria's Step; Jumpin' In; Reincarnation of a Lovebird; Ode to Tomten; Ladies in Mercedes.

Personnel: Ron Brendle; Keith Davis piano; Troy Conn guitar; John Spurrier drums.

Title: A Tribute to the Bassists of Jazz | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: LoNote

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