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Scott Lee: Leaving

Dan Bilawsky By

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Scott Lee: Leaving One word album titles often invite a lot questions about intent and direction. What exactly is bassist Scott Lee leaving behind? The answer is: nothing, and a little bit of everything at the same time. Lee is no newcomer on the scene and, for the past decade, he and his musical cohorts have been working out ideas on how to expand improvisational possibilities. While some people find it challenging enough to improvise over a given form, this quartet makes it their mission to do so with ease, while also improvising the form itself.

This type of concept only bears fruit in the hands of people who've spent time working these ideas out together and Lee's band mates here—pianist Gary Versace, reed man Billy Drewes and drummer Jeff Hirshfield—are simpatico, to say the least. While this highbrow concept might sound like an over-intellectualized approach to music, these performances have a heart that says otherwise. Although freer sections of music come into play on the album, melodic sensibilities still remain, usually via Drewes' delightful lines. He's soothing on his tenor during "Taxed," and moves from sprite-like staccato soprano statements at the outset of "Two Way," to snake-charmer phrases and seagull swoops, before the tune is done. Additional Drewes highlights include a spiritual-turned-sunny soprano turn on a bass-and-drums duo—appropriately called "Old Friend Talking"—and his warm, inviting clarinet work on the absorbing title track.

Lee uses everything from plinking harmonics to deep-toned arco work during "Old Friends Talking," though his bow work at other points on the album ("Musing") momentarily mimics a cello, before returning to the land of the low. "Drummersome" features some stellar bass solo work over a swinging beat, later converting to a different and darker groove religion when Versace makes his presence felt. Aural disarray ensues, and Drewes brings everything back to a solid state—though it doesn't remain there, and the music continues to decay and rebuild in original fashion. <> Versace delivers one of his most daring solos on "What's Up," with looping, rippling runs giving way to more angular expressions, while he throws out some fractured phrases during the closing "Shamrock." Leaving might be a departure from certain formal structural comforts, but it also marks an arrival with some fresh musical ideas.

Track Listing: Taxed; Two Ways; Musing; JGB; Old Friends Talking; Choice; The Connection; Leaving; Drummersome; What's Up; Shamrock.

Personnel: Scott Lee: bass; Billy Drewes: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Gary Versace: piano; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records


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