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Pianist/Composer Dave Bass Follows Up His Critically Acclaimed Trio Albums With 'The Trio-Vol. 3'


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An unending exposition on imagination, with consummate grace and alacrity.
—Glide Magazine
The Trio – Vol. 3, the newest recording by pianist and composer Dave Bass, is a lyrical, freewheeling buffet of solid originals together with an eclectic assortment of compositions ranging from the American Songbook to the jazz songbook to a Piazzolla tango. This is Bass’ sixth CD as a leader and follows The Trio – Vol. 2 (2022), The Trio – Vol. 1 (2021), No Boundaries (2019), NYC Sessions (2015), and Gone (2012). Glide Magazine calls Vol. 2, “an unending exposition on imagination, with consummate grace and alacrity."

On his first three recordings, Bass surrounded himself with some of the top names in jazz, like Phil Woods, Conrad Herwig, Ernie Watts, Karrin Allyson, Mary Stallings, and Ted Nash. The albums were very well received and found their way to the top of the JazzWeek radio charts. Gone hit #2 and NYC Sessions hit #5. DownBeat named NYC Sessions as one of the “BEST ALBUMS of 2015.” In 2021, Bass changed direction and adopted the trio format. “In jazz, the piano trio is one of the most demanding and revealing disciplines – perhaps the ultimate challenge for a jazz pianist,” says Bass. “There is nowhere to hide, and all is revealed. When successful, the trio format allows for a wonderful telepathy between the players, and I am delighted that this has happened with bassist Kerry Kashiwagi and drummer Scott Gordon.”

Kashiwagi and Gordon also appeared on Vol.1 and Vol. 2. They have played many trio gigs with Dave, resulting in the profound musical intimacy of Vol.3. Guitarist Barry Finnerty, who recorded with the likes of Miles Davis, Brecker Brothers, Hubert Laws, and Ray Barretto, appears as a guest artist on three of the 12 tracks on Vol. 3.

Having studied piano with the renowned Madame Chaloff and composition with innovator George Russell, Bass supported himself as a musician playing in many settings and touring the world. He eventually ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, where he immersed himself in the vibrant San Francisco jazz and Latin music scene, leading his own group and playing often with friends Bobby McFerrin, drummer Babatunde Lea, and jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan. Bass re-located to Southern California where a slip and fall on the way to a gig caused a seriously damaging wrist fracture. His doctors told him he would never play piano again. With a wife and young daughter to support, Bass enrolled at the University of California, Irvine, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude.

He went on to UCLA School of Law and began his legal career in 1992. In 1996, Bass became a Deputy Attorney General with the California Office of the Attorney General, where he eventually joined Civil Rights Enforcement. While still a Deputy Attorney General, one evening he was invited to play some impromptu solo piano during a private party while the band took a break. He was thrilled to discover his injury had healed to the point that he could resume playing piano. He started attending jam sessions and once again fell in love with playing, composing, arranging, and writing lyrics. In fact, Bass wrote two of the original compositions on VOL. 3 soon after returning to the world of music in 2005. After juggling two careers, Bass put his legal career behind him in 2015 to resume a career in music full-time.

On Vol. 3, the trio once again displays the deep empathy of a band that sounds like they have been playing together for decades. Bass’ interpretations breathe new life into the standards while avoiding novelty-for-novelty’s sake.

The album opens with Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “As Long as There’s Music.” Introduced by Frank Sinatra in 1944, Bass re-imagines the tune by changing the meter from 4/4 to 6/4. He adds a vamp at the end that extends the feel of the song. Thelonious Monk is a favorite of Bass and he includes at least one of his tunes on each of his trio albums. On “Criss Cross,” one of Monk’s edgiest compositions, Bass stretches out, floating above the hard swinging undercurrent by Kashiwagi and Gordon.

Bass composed “Endless Waltz” when he first returned to music. He originally wrote lyrics to the tune, movingly sung and recorded by Karrin Allyson on Bass’ NYC Sessions. The instrumental version on Vol.3 highlights the composition’s shifting key center. Bass composed “Agenbite of Inwit” when he was reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which the phrase appears. Meaning prick of conscience, Bass felt the phrase captured the feel of his tune. Bass believed it would be a great vehicle for Finnerty and, indeed, Finnerty’s blistering guitar solo proves him right. Likewise, Bass’ solo on the tune demonstrates his virtuosity. Rodgers and Hart’s “With A Song in My Heart” features a swinging dialog between Kashiwagi and Gordon, allowing Bass to render a tasty solo. Bass first heard “El Ciego” – a beautiful bolero about lost love— on Charlie Haden’s Nocturne album. “Israel,” which originally appeared on Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool, gets a treatment inspired by Bill Evans and Paul Bley.

Annette Peacock is one of Bass’ favorite composers, and he plays one of her compositions on each of his Trio albums. With no set harmony or time, “Blood” is the most out, free-form tune on Vol.3, and the Trio’s brief version is breathtaking. Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” is a favorite of Kashiwagi’s, and his bass is featured in Bass’ arrangement. “Played Twice” is a trippy, edgy Monk tune. It has a relaxed swing feel and features solos by Kashiwagi and Gordon. This is Bass’s second recording of “Libertango.” It features riveting solos by both Bass and Finnerty. Vol. 3 has a new arrangement of “Another Ending,” (first recorded on Gone). Bass delivers an engagingly romantic solo on the bolero section and Finnerty provides a powerfully dramatic solo on the cha-cha section.

Bass and company are superb musicians, and the music on The Trio-Vol. 3 is by turns whimsical, swinging, soulful, eloquent, and always adventurous.

The Trio-Vol. 3 will be available digitally on selected platforms via Tiger Turn on May 12, 2023.

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