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Michael Oien: And Now

Dan Bilawsky By

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And now, the arrival of And Now—the debut leader date from bassist Michael Oien.

Oien, who's worked with everybody from saxophonist Uri Gurvich to guitarist Nir Felder to pianist Roy Assaf, is primed to make a strong statement here. He's done his homework and he's shown himself to be a musical pillar of support, a solid composer, and a strong soloist, so now he's ready to take flight. After a decade spent on the New York scene, Oien is finally stepping out of the shadows and into the light.

Over the course of eight tracks—seven Oien originals and an American folk piece ("All My Trials")—the bassist touches on a multitude of musical moods and ideas. He explores placid and idyllic acoustic realms ("In The Early Autumn"), moves in an Afrocentric groove direction with a bass-drums-alto trio performance ("Skol"), and rocks out on a number that brings guest tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante into contact with the project's core quintet ("Mad To Live").

Oien's plump-toned presence serves as a steadying force throughout, regardless of whether he's laying foundations, stepping forward to set a scene ("Dreamer (Part I)"), or delivering a solo bass number ("All My Trials"). And he's in good company here. Pianist Jamie Reynolds always manages to find something new to say as he operates from different vantage points or musical strata, guitarist Matthew Stevens brings acoustic purity and electric heat to the project, drummer Eric Doob shows great range, both in stylistic and dynamic terms, and alto saxophonist Nick Videen proves to be a musician's musician, serving the songs, not himself.

Since Oien has been on the scene for quite a while, some may say that And Now was long overdue. But time-on-scene should never really be the chief factor in determining when an artist should take the driver's seat. It all really comes down to whether or not an artist has something important and meaningful to say, and whether or not they're ready to take that leap. So maybe this album should've arrived sooner, but maybe it wouldn't have been as impressive if it did. As it stands, And Now is a great work of art, showcasing a bassist-leader on the rise.

Track Listing: In The Early Autumn; Skol; Mad To Live; Ask Anyone; Smile This Mile; Dreamer, Part I; Dreamer, Part II; Dreamer, Part III; All My Trials.

Personnel: Michael Oien: bass; Matthew Stevens: accoustic & electric guitars; Nick Videen: alto sax; Jamie Reynolds: piano; Eric Doob: drums. Travis Laplante: tenor sax, track #3). .

Title: And Now | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

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