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Clark Sommers Lens: By A Thread

Dan McClenaghan By

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Bassist Clark Sommers served up a terrific trio outing in 2013 with Ba(sh) (Origin Record), a teaming with his fellow Chicagoans, reedman Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall. He expands the ensemble to a quintet for By A Thread. Tenorist (mostly, he also adds his bass clarinet to the sound) Geof Bradfield is back, in what amounts to, in part, a reimagination of the organ jazz genre.

The By A Thread band is headed up by a bassist; the tunes were all written by a bassist, but listening to the disc blind, it would be hard to identify the leader. Sax man Bradfield or keyboardist (mostly organist here) Gary Versace would be reasonable guesses. Sommers is not one to step out front and strut his stuff. This is about the ensemble interplay and the tunes. With guitarist Jeff Parker in the rhythm section with Versace, the harmonies have a more intricate weave. Trombonist Joel Adams teams with Bradfield in the front line (with really doesn't often sound like a traditional front like; it's more a cohesive ensemble approach here) and meld their sounds with Versace and Parker. Harmony takes a front stage much of the time, punctuated by surprising and succinct-but-eloquent turns in the spotlight by Bradford and guitarist Parker, and the modernistic soulfulness of Versace's organ work.

The title tune/opener is a world unto itself, brimming with a collective inspirations, going from grooves to amorphous atmospherics and back to grooves again.The tunes throughout have an idiosyncratic, futuristic appeal. Sommers has quite his own thing going, compositionally. Drummer Kendrick Scott is top-notch as a texturalist and timekeeper/provocateur.  

Sommers has shaped a first rate set with By A Thread, wrapping things up with the highlight, "Pillage," with Vijay Tellis-Naayak sitting in on Moog, and Jeff Parker's guitar soaring into a stratospheric surf music territory, giving way to a smoldering tenor sax solo from Geof Bradfield.

Track Listing: By A Thread; Meet Me Halfway; Stoic Sun; Points Of Reduction; Simple Act; You've Said; Chasm; Pillage.

Personnel: Clark Sommers: bass; Jeff Parker: guitar; Kendrick Scott: drum; Gary Versace: organ/Rhodes; Geof Bradfield: saxes, bass clarinet; Joel Adams: trombone, megabone (9); Vijay Tellis-Nayak: Moog (9).

Title: By A Thread | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ears&eyes Records

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