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Richard Simon: Covering the Basses

Jack Bowers By

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On the second release for his own UFO-Bass label, bassist Richard Simon pays tribute to a number of other well-known timekeepers with a laid-back session whose aura is one of a late-night club date in which everyone is simply having a grand time grooving on the music they love and appreciate. After opening with a pair of disarming originals by Simon ("Melatonin," which brings Duke's "In a Mellow Tone" up to date, and "Theme from Poultry-geist"), the group essays tunes by bassists Ray Brown ("Ray's Idea"), Sam Jones ("Unit Seven"), Bob Haggart (a shuffle-tempo "What's New"), Leroy Vinnegar ("For Carl"), Johnny Frigo ("Detour Ahead," co-written with Herb Ellis and Lou Carter), Christian McBride ("In a Hurry"), Oscar Pettiford ("Tricotism"), John Clayton ("Blues for Stephanie"), Butch Warren ("The Backbone") and Charles Mingus' valedictory to Lester Young ("Goodbye Porkpie Hat"). Both front-liners (Bernal, Collette) are capable boppers with palpable Swing Era roots. Bernal stays with his deep-throated tenor while Collette alternates among tenor, alto and flute, displaying his usual self-assurance on each of them (he has to be one of the most underappreciated flutists on the scene). Hillery also enlivens the tonal canvas, playing organ on nine tracks (he's especially forceful on "Detour Ahead," "Blues for Stephanie" and "Backbone"), piano on three. Even though it's his gig, Simon doesn't dominate the proceedings, teaming instead with Hillary, Viola and Kirkwood to sculpt a consistently reliable rhythm component. Simon plays a lovely arco on Clayton's "Blues for Stephanie," and describes the melody with Viola on Pettiford's "Tricotism" (to which Viola appends another of his always-engaging solos) and with Bernal on Warren's Latin-flavored "Backbone." Collette's alto isn't listed on the mournful closer, "Porkpie Hat," but it's there alongside Bernal's tenor to nurture the proper mood. No fireworks or goosebumps here; simply a solid, well-played session by musicians who know one another well but clearly appreciate the chance to become even better acquainted.

Title: Covering the Basses | Year Released: 1998


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