Bassist Jay Anderson has been a sideman for many musicians including Michael Brecker, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler and Maria Schneider, but he hasn't led a recording session since the 90s.' He makes up for lost time here with a varied set of music that sometimes follows standard jazz orthodoxy and sometimes goes its own fascinating way.
Two of his treatments are particularly surprising. He turns Morton Feldman's solemn "Rothko Chapel" into haunting exotica. His bowed bass and Billy Drewes' soprano sax float airily over chiming beats embellished by droning harmonium, rustling percussion and the faint whine of Tibetan singing bowls. Going in the other direction, he pares the Billy Joel song "And So It Goes" down to a simple, dignified feature for solo pizzicato bass.
Elsewhere there are more conventional jazz sounds. The quartet of Anderson, Drewes, cornet player Kirk Knuffke and drummer Matt Wilson attack Keith Jarrett's "Shades Of Jazz" and "Southern Smiles" and Branford Marsalis' "The Mighty Sword" with the bouncing energy and soul of the old Ornette Coleman quartet. The horns giddily bubble around each other as the bass and drums keep the rhythm perking along. Gil Evans' "Time Of The Barracudas" is a bit more complex. The bass and percussionists do the improvising with the horns' repeating swirls serving as the fulcrum for their flights.
The old standard "Sweet And Lovely" gets an interesting redo. At first it's just Anderson plucking a funky melody over Wilson's strutting New Orleans drums. Then Knuffke takes over on the bridge, swarming in with a whinny and a whisper, like trumpeter Don Cherry. Anderson's own composition, "Momentum," has the two horns singing together in unison before they solo with quiet passion over free-falling bass and drum accents. Frank Kimbrough joins in on harmonium on three tracks. Besides the aforementioned "Rothko Chapel," he provides a wheezing rustic backdrop to Anderson's firm pizzicato on "Tennessee Waltz" and is part the background of Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To," his drone part of a slowly growing backdrop to Anderson's groaning bass notes and Drewes' leaping, birdlike soprano.
Jay Anderson obviously accumulated a lot to say since his last time as a leader. He has put together a varied CD of multi-faceted music, assembling a marvelous cast of musicians to help him pull it off. This is a powerful recording full of deep, understated soul.
Deepscape; Shades Of Jazz; Rothko Chapel (5th Movement); Southern Smiles; And So It Goes; Time Of The
Barracudas; Sweet And Lovely; Momentum; Witchi-Tai-To; The Mighty Sword; Tennesee Waltz.