Empire is another exceptional release by Scott Colley, the first-call bassist whose deep strings have been the mainstay with numerous leading artists and a part of several fine recordings including drummer Antonio Sanchez's outstanding Live in New York at Jazz Standard (Cam Jazz, 2010). "January," the album's opener, sets a mood that is as cinematic as it is compelling. The twang of strings from Bill Frisell's guitar, the whispered wind song of percussive bells from drummer Brian Blade, and the elongated notes from trumpeter Ralph Alessi all create a ethereal backwoods aura, as the rhythmic pocket grows more intense like a storm on the outskirts of a quiet rural town.
It has been said that "A picture is worth a thousand words," and the cover art for Empire secretly confirms that truth through a Colley family photo (circa 1875-family home and post office in Empire, Kansas). "January"'s strong vibe found its inspiration, more than likely, from the photo's fascinating source material:
"In 1875 Joseph J. Colby constructed the first permanent residence which was the beginning of Empire. Any hope for a prosperous future for Empire was shattered when a branch of the AT&SF Railroad was completed September 23, 1879 passing north of Empire through the present site of Galva. It didn't take long for the residents of Empire to move their buildings north to the tracks. By 1880, even the post office was closed. The beginning of Galva meant the end of Empire..."Galva, Kansas Historical Records.
Regardless of the connection, Colley's opening track, as articulated by consummate musicians, denotes not only a stalwart bassist, but a composer who is thoughtful and creative. The track, like the photo, conveys a sense of capturing a moment in time and hints at much more to be discovered.
Personnel: Scott Colley: bass; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Brian Blade: drums; Bill Frisell: guitar; Craig Taborn: piano.
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