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Scott Lee: Leaving

Mark Corroto By

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Maybe te annual jazz awards need to add a new category for musicians like Scott Lee. It could be titled "master musicians deserving of wider recognition." The veteran bassist has been on the New York scene since the 1970s, and a member of numerous bands including those led by titans Chet Baker, Joe Lovano, and, Kenny Werner. He has also been a sympathetic contributor to the careers of Loren Stillman and Andrew Rathbun. With Leaving, his followup to One Thought (SteepleChase, 2008), he dispatches a recording that blurs the lines between the compositions written and improvised.

It would be easy to identify most of the tracks here as comprehensively composed music. The improvisation is that good—or maybe its' simply a near-perfect match of sympathetic players. Lee has been working with drummer Jeff Hirshfield and saxophonist Billy Drewes for over thirty years, and pianist Gary Versace has been part of that conversation for the past eight. Versace seems to fit in nicely with any ensemble, from the large orchestras of Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck, to Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts, and duos with Lee Konitz.

The communication and cooperation is evident from note one. Lee writes homelike pieces that the players stretch and invigorate. The opening "Taxed" begins with an orderly melody, with Drewes's tenor coming from the Jan Garbarek school—full of long lush tones. Drewes is also a skilled soprano technician, his escalating sound soaring over several tracks including the hesitant "JGB" and "Two Ways," the latter possessing an insistent theme over which Steve Lacy would have felt comfortable working. Drewes and Versace are simply dancing here to the radiant melody.

As a leader, Lee rarely steps out for recognition. His bow speaks measures on the overtly simple "Musing," where Versace and the bassist converse, while he picks/plucks his way through a slippery duo with Hirshfield on "The Connection." The pair prefers time to be liquid—morphing into varying shades and textures that are best illustrated on "Drummersome," where Hirshfield changes time signatures throughout, his partners left to react, act, and swing like hell.

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.

Title: Leaving | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records

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