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Clark Sommers: Ba(SH)

Dan McClenaghan By

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There's something quite "free" about a trio without a guitar or piano in the mix, with no chords nailing the sound down. Seattle's Origin Records has a history of offering up excellent saxophone/bass/drums outings: bassist Jeff Johnson's Near Earth (2004) and Free (2000), and drummer John Bishop's Nothing If Not Something (2006). Now three veterans of the Chicago jazz scene have teamed up under bassist Clark Sommers' leader baton for an organic sounding outing.

Enlisting saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall, Sommers leads the sound into a fluid, smooth flowing music on eight of his originals and a couple of fine covers—pianist Thelonious Monk's "Think Of One" and drummer Billy Higgins' "Inga."

With Bradfield employing by turns the soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, and bass clarinet the group creates a sound that seems to transpire gracefully with an often probing mood, conveying a feeling of tranquility. Sommers "Garrison" opens the set. A nod, surely, to saxophonist John Coltrane's bassist Jimmy Garrison, the tune throbs to life on a deep bass moaning over Hall's whispering drums, soon joined by Bradfield on tenor, on a tune that has a searching and spiritual Coltrane vibe, with a restrained turbulence as someone, way down in the mix— kind of like a Keith Jarrett outburst—yells as if a sonic nirvana has just hit.

"Momentary Flux" has the trio sounding stealthy, with Bradfield laying down smooth and sinuous lines on the tenor horn, with Hall and Sommers rumbling ominously. "Quanah" opens with an extended drum solo from Hall that sounds like Native American percussion meets drummer Elvin Jones, channeled through Dana Hall's percussive sensibilities. Bradfield enters with a simple melody on this memorable tune.

Billy Higgins' "Inga," showcases the feature, a pretty melody inside a cool and easy rhythm, and Monk's "Think of One" has Bradfield again blowing with a restrained heat as he explores the nooks of the melody in front of Sommers' rubbery bass and Hall's perfect accenting, closing out this top shelf trio affair.

Track Listing: Garrison; Momentary Flux; Quanah; Fathom-A-Ning; On Meditation; 10; Inga; Trillium; Llano Estacado; Think of One.

Personnel: Geof Bradfield: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Clark Sommers: bass; Dana Hall: drums.

Title: Ba(SH) | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Origin Records


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