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Avery Sharpe is probably best known as the bassist in the McCoy Tyner trio. But he should be known as a remarkable leader and composer with some notable releases to his credit. If that latter trait has been overlooked to an extent, now is the time to stop and pay attention. Sharpe's new trio recording is filled with a beautiful lyricism that brings the art of the trio full centre. And if that were not enough, he goes ahead to bring in saxophone and vocals to fill the well of his imagination as an arranger.
Through thick and thin, Sharpe's exemplary skills as a bassist are never hidden beneath a bushel. His eloquence adds to the dynamics, and when he uses the electric bass, particularly the six-string, he brings in an altogether refreshing feel. Complementing him are pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and drummer Winard Harper, who share an empathy that defines the music and a closeness that builds a strong emotional edifice. And they certainly can swing. With all that in tow, how could they miss?
The trio setting is defined over eight tunes where Sharpe divides his time between acoustic and electric basses. Sharpe's bowing brings an edge to "Trilogy." Gumbs takes a lighter approach, his lyrical playing opening the vent to melody. The juxtaposition dissolves as Gumbs becomes emphatic and Sharpe turns around and delves into the tune. When "Sweet Georgia Brown" comes tripping along, the mood and momentum are elevated. Sharpe cavorts on the tune; Gumbs lays it wide open and engages in a dialogue with the bass. Harper isn't out in the cold; his accents add to the delight and his solo slaps in some heady rhythm.
The romantic ballad gets its due in spades when it comes to "All About You,'? on which Sharpe uses the six-string bass as the lead instrument with gentle sensitivity. The electric bass is the lead instrument on "Swingfield,'? where the swing is modulated and so is the funk. Jeri Brown adds a wordless vocal that swirls headily and Chico Freeman swings in on the tenor to underline the blues. This wonderful tune is all liquid fire. While Sharpe widens the scope through quartet and quintet outings, he also has the vision for an intimate duo setting. "Change" makes for a nice vignette, Brown singing with a warm passion, Sharpe adding the cleave with his tapping and plucking.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.