467

Mark Egan: As We Speak

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
While the innovations of the late Jaco Pastorius continue to be felt to this day, he's not the only electric bassist to develop a recognizable fretless sound. Born the same year as Pastorius, Mark Egan has built his career around a denser tone and more eminently lyrical disposition. While Pastorius was capable of equal melodism but often resorted to greater bombast, Egan has remained distinctive and been a more consistent team player. As We Speak is a strong example—the bassist's most open-ended blowing session as a leader, and a sharp contrast to the more produced Freedom Town (Wavetone, 2001).

Egan teams up with drummer Danny Gottlieb and guitarist John Abercrombie for this intimate trio date. Gottlieb and Egan go back over thirty years, best-known as charter members of guitar icon Pat Metheny's first group and their ongoing collaboration, Elements. Abercrombie may be the new face here, but his ability to fit any context—chameleon-like but always distinctly himself—makes him the perfect choice.

While Abercrombie continues to record as a leader for ECM, it's been many years since either Egan or Gottlieb have recorded for the German label. Still, this double-disc set of largely Egan compositions, recorded over just two days, has a certain in-the-moment vibe that wouldn't be out of place on that label. Songs like the ethereal "Spirals, with Gottlieb's delicate cymbal work and Abercrombie's sixteen-note motif, constantly reharmonized by Egan's shifting harmonic center, seem custom-fit for ECM, opening up into a free middle section that recalls the chemistry of Abercrombie's work with the Gateway trio.

It's no surprise that Egan was listening to Gateway when he conceived this project. On the title tune he manages to double its lengthy theme with Abercrombie, while dropping down deep throughout to give the song its harmonic foundation. This kind of shifting roleplay makes the disc so compelling. But what's perhaps most remarkable is how deep the shared chemistry is for a first meeting. Egan and Gottlieb would be expected to have an almost telepathic connection, but Abercrombie sounds as if he's been playing with them for years.

While the overall ambience is atmospheric and light, and many of the tunes open up into freer space, Egan's not averse to writing changes. The bluesy yet lyrical "Mississippi Nights features Abercrombie and Egan trading off the theme, while Gottlieb's brushwork keeps a subtle groove throughout.

Four free improvisations on disc two manage to generate some added heat to this generally understated session. Egan's "Stiletto also motors along, with Gottlieb creating a lightly funky foundation, while the rubato "Plane to the Trane is driven by Egan's singing tone.

Egan has been a busy sideman with everyone from Gil Evans to Sting, but this effort is distinctive and special. One of those unexpected gems that crop up only occasionally, As We Speak suggests a personal direction that he should pursue far more often.

Track Listing

CD1: Spirals; As We Speak; Vanishing Point; Mississippi Nights; Alone Together; Your Sweet Way; Three-Way Mirror; Tone Poem for My Father. CD2: Shade and Shadows; Next Left; Dream Sequence; Depraw; Stiletto; Plane to Trane; Time Out; Summer Sand.

Personnel

Mark Egan: fretless electric bass; John Abercrombie: guitar; Danny Gottlieb: drums.

Album information

Title: As We Speak | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Wavetone Records

Tags

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Morning Light
Morning Light
By David A. Orthmann
Read Berit In Space
Berit In Space
By Mark Corroto
Read Cherry Jam
Cherry Jam
By Karl Ackermann
Read Live In Willisau
Live In Willisau
By Troy Dostert
Read Serenity Island
Serenity Island
By Mike Jurkovic
Read Albare Plays Jobim
Albare Plays Jobim
By Edward Blanco
Read Ecology
Ecology
By Toj Samaz