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Michael Bisio Quartet
live at Vision Fest. XII
By Any Other Name
Michael Bisio/ George Muscatello/ Dean Sharp
Collar City Creatology
Bob Gluck Trio
Increasingly visible bassist Michael Bisio does it all. Not content with being a fearsome soloist, Bisio is also an enabling bandleader and potent composer. Though raised in upstate New York, Bisio found his voice as a mainstay of the Seattle jazz scene, before returning to his home state in 2005. While not yet a household name, he has worked extensively with Joe McPhee and Charles Gayle, as well as Marilyn Crispell, John Tchicai, Andrew Cyrille and many others.
Bisio's current quartet with drummer Jay Rosen and contrasting but simpatico reedmen Avram Fefer and Stephen Gauci complements two fine discs on the CIMP label with a live recording from the 2007 Vision Festival, featuring a brace of multi-sectioned suites. "History of a Mystery" tells the tale of an extinct branch of the human family, Homo floresiensis, provoking immediate thoughts of another bass-led quartet. Like Charles Mingus' "Pithecanthropus Erectus," Bisio's piece takes flight on the visceral thrill of two sparring hornmen. In fact they play in loose tandem throughout much of this inspiring album, forging a big ensemble sound belying its fourfold origins. Bisio supplies written material at times pensive, turning devil may care, fuelled by his supple basswork and Rosen's savvy textural dynamics. While the boomy ambience of the Angel Orensanz Center adds a distance, it is not enough to dilute either the adrenaline rush or elegiac beauty of the music.
A different quartet holds forth on By Any Other Name: Old Dog, Bisio joined by veterans Warren Smith (drums) and Karl Berger (vibes and piano), together with the tenor sax of Louie Belogenis. Two versions of the bassist's title track bookend four improvs and three further Bisio pieces. Belogenis adroitly channels his saxophonistic touchstones, evoking the feel of Trane's majestic "Alabama" on the first trio version of the title track while his Ayler-esque tenor wails grace the loose colloquy of "Who Are You?" His falsetto tenor distortions blend pleasingly with Bisio's scraped arco drone at the outset of "Round And Round" before Berger's repeated chiming motif adds some structure to the free-flowing improv. Elsewhere the bassist's "Swa Swu Sui" forsakes an Ornettish head for the outer reaches of careening vibes and keening tenor sax while "Constellation" evolves organically from a solo drum introduction, with the lead voice switching imperceptibly around this thoughtful quartet.
Known as Collar City, Bisio's hometown of Troy is the inspiration for his new trio with fellow native/ guitarist George Muscatello and percussionist Dean Sharp. Two versions of the bassist's "Livin' Large" open the proceedings, both providing ample space for the leader's full dark tone allied with an almost tactile sense of catgut vibrating against wood. As a duet, the first takes the form of a contrapuntal invention tending to an inevitable unison with Muscatello's ringing guitar; the second takes the theme as the starting point for one of the spare group conversations that characterize this knotty outing. "CK3," the lengthy centerpiece, opens with rustles, scrapes and taps which transmute, via taut arco harmonics, into a locomotive rhythm, powered by shuffling brushes, topped by the guitar's primary colors.
Another trio, Colored Houses finds Bisio in the company of Seattle-based drummer Jack Gold-Molina and saxophonist Michael Monhart for a 77-minute set of raw earthy free form improvisations. Bisio takes the opportunities the generous playing time affords, most notably in a virtuoso solo introduction to "Uppercut," invoking multiple voices with his inventive bowing and simultaneous thrumming pizzicato. Monhart's chewy baritone saxophone multiphonics intertwine as the piece moves through varied terrain to finish with a powerful solo statement from Gold-Molina. A similar sense of journey pervades the epic "Water Lilies" which successfully maintains interest through its 33-minute evolution. Monhart's tenor proves his strongest suit, with his abstract lines and indeterminate pitch opening the ears on "Throwing Stones" while the leader demonstrates good judgment in knowing when to drive and when to color. Though dating back to 2003, this well-recorded radio broadcast thoroughly deserves a wider airing.
Finally Bisio is featured alongside Dean Sharp in yet one more trio, providing astute support for the leadership of Albany-based music professor Bob Gluck, whose piano and electronics are the main voice on Sideways. Five Gluck originals sit alongside three covers and an instructive pared-down version of Bisio's "History of a Mystery". Gluck alternates melodic sensibilities with more abstract impulses, sometimes even within the same piece. He gives a tender solo piano rendition of Joe Zawinul's gorgeous ballad "A Remark You Made," though the Weather Report man's "Unknown Soldier" gets more of a going over. Elsewhere Gluck discreetly splices electronics into the mix, such as the unearthly mewling cries which vie with Bisio's bass throb towards the end of a fine version of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," distorted keyboard musings on "Rather Wonderful" or the Sun Ra suggestive solo "Yet Another Pharoah".
Tracks and Personnel
live at Vision Fest. XII
Tracks: History of a Mystery: H. Floresiensis; Nitro, Don't Leave Home Without It.
Personnel: Michael Bisio: bass; Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone; Avram Fefer: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jay Rosen: drums.
By Any Other Means
Tracks: By Any Other Name (trio); Endless Return; Swa Swu Sui; Round And Round; Living Large; Zephyr Revisited; Who Are You?; Constellation; By Any Other Name (quartet).
Personnel: Louie Belogenis: tenor saxophone; Karl Berger: vibes, piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Warren Smith: drums.
Collar City Creatology
Tracks: Livin' Large (duo); Livin' Large (trio); Zephyr Revisited; CK3; Times That Bond; Eel Annod; Parabola; Empty Now Full.
Personnel: Michael Bisio: bass; George Muscatello: guitar; Dean Sharp: percussion.
Tracks: Throwing Stones; Water Lilies; Uppercut; Colored Houses; Through Autumn.
Personnel: Michael Monhart: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones; Michael Bisio: bass; Jack Gold-Molina: drums.
Tracks: Unknown Soldier; Sideways; Waterway; Rather Wonderful; Yet Another Pharoah; History of a Mystery: H. Floresiensis; A Remark You Made; Yonati; Lonely Woman.
Personnel: Michael Bisio: bass; Bob Gluck: piano and electronics; Dean Sharp: percussion.