Bassists/Leaders: Linda Oh, Joe Martin, Ben Allison, Ruslan Khain & Iris Ornig

Ivana Ng By

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Linda Oh Trio

Joe Martin
Not By Chance
Anzic Records

Ben Allison
Think Free
Palmetto Records

Ruslan Khain
For Medicinal Purposes Only!
Smalls Records

Iris Ornig
New Ground

There seems to be no end of bassists-leaders and this month, we see new albums from five of them, some established, others just getting their end pins wet.

The sparse instrumentation on Linda Oh's Entry makes for a darker, freer sound. A finalist in this year's Monk Competition, Oh's first album is urgent, persistent, vigorous and the dynamic between her, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Obed Calvaire is fiercely autonomous yet firmly cohesive. "Patterns" has Oh and Calvaire engaging in an angsty, improvised discourse while "Fourth Limb" sees the two reconnecting in a more structured, darker setting.

Joe Martin's Not By Chance features three jazz heavyweights—Chris Potter (reeds), Brad Mehldau (piano) and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Mehldau's understated piano is well-suited to the mellow atmosphere of the album. His quiet yet meaningful riffs seem sparse but they often lay the foundation for interesting licks and compelling solos. Because Martin approaches the music with a great understanding of group chemistry and instrumentation, his quartet has produced an album that is tight and intriguing.

Ben Allison's Think Free traffics in melodies that are dark, wry and restrained. "Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla" begins with an echo of guitar (Steve Cardenas) and breaks into a punk riff led by trumpet (Shane Endsley) and violin (Jenny Scheinman). Allison also reinterprets a few of his past compositions, such as "Green Al," from 2004's Buzz. In this playful tune, violin harkens back to Allison's past chamber-jazz inclinations, while guitar and bass achieves the rock simplicity Allison seeks throughout this album.

Ruslan Khain presents a different kind of eagerness on For Medicinal Purposes Only!. Many of the tunes draw on swing and bebop traditions. The CD is more buoyant and romantic and, leading a quintet, Khain prefers to have fun and doesn't feel a need to prove something. The compositions are consequently light, upbeat and often playful.

New Ground is Iris Ornig's debut as a leader and she approaches it with an ear for the delicate balances of instrumentation. Despite the title, it is the 'old ground' she digs up that is most engaging. In her sweet and wistful arrangement of "Here I Go Again," vocalist Nunga Babu sings poignantly as guitarist Daisuke Abe strums languorously. In "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," Rebecca Martin's smoky voice wafts over the soft, melodic ballad.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Morning Sunset; Patterns; Numero Uno; Fourth Limb; Gunners; A Year From Now; Before the Music; 201; Soul to Squeeze.

Personnel: Linda Oh: bass; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Obed Calvaire: drums.

Not By Chance

Tracks: Semente; In The Meantime; Cache; A Dream; The Balloon Song; Once Before; Far; Not By Chance; The Stoic.

Personnel: Joe Martin: bass; Chris Potter: saxophones, bass clarinet; Brad Mehldau: piano; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Think Free

Tracks: Fred; Platypus; Broke; Kramer vs. Kramer vs. Godzilla; Sleeping Giant; Peace Pipe; vs. Godzilla; Green Al.

Personnel: Ben Allison: bass; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Shane Endsley: trumpet; Jenny Scheinman: violin; Rudy Royston: drums.

For Medicinal Purposes Only!

Tracks: Fly Mingus, Fly!; Kira-Gas; Zebra; Hydrant; Delay; Sleep...; K.V.A.; "Q" Train; For Medicinal Purposes Only!; B-ology.

Personnel: Ruslan Khain: bass; Chris Byars: tenor saxophone, flute; Yoshi Okazaki: trumpet; Richard Clements: piano; Phil Stewart: drums.

New Ground

Tracks: The very same sensation; Grateful friendship; Here I go again; Caravan; New ground; Summer; Weisst du wieviel sternlein stehen?; Let the lower lights be burning; It's time to say goodbye; Chicken only on Sunday; What is this thing called love; Sweet and loveable.

Personnel: Iris Ornig: bass; Daisuke Abe: guitar; Yoshiro Okazaki: trumpets; Danny Grissett: piano; Tony Jefferson: drums.


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