Everything belongs here on Nothing Here Belongs, the first Joe Policastro Trio album to focus primarily on original material. The three previous outings from this Chicago-based outfit sold themselves with a pliable approach to covers. On West Side Story Suite (Self Produced, 2013) it was an expansive brush with Bernstein; with Pops! (Self Produced, 2016) the band tackled popular music, from Burt Bacharach to The Pixies; and through Screen Sounds (Jerujazz Records, 2017) the group visited songs of the silver screen. Now, with this fourth album, the familiar largely recedes.
Policastro and company don't completely do away with coversthere are three of them here, for those who like to keep scorebut the bulk of this date looks elsewhere, focusing on the bassist's smart writing and his trio's interplay. "Speak Slow(ly)" finds the band throwing in plenty of twists and turns while also placing its swing bona fides on display. "Bloodshot" puts Dave Miller's coolly pointed guitar in contact with grooves that are at once loose and grounding. "In The Quiet" retains a somewhat reflective stance while drummer Mikel Avery helps it shift gears and change shape. And "Oceans Of Notions," inspired by bassist Ron Carter's way with the pen, presents some of this band's catchiest lines in an upbeat atmosphere. With those originals, and the two that follow, the Joe Policastro Trio marks itself as a cohesive unit with an extraordinarily flexible mindset.
The few covers in this mix create symmetry through their presence, with two bookending the album and one serving as its centerpiece. They also manage to open a window onto the trio's sharp interpretive instincts. A take on Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" brings a quiet intensity into the picture and even detours into a patch of reggae. "The Wandering Sea," at the album's midpoint, bobs and bounds while hinting at the proto-surfer instrumental school of Santo & Johnny's time. And a "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" closer brings an appropriately tight focus and energy to this Talking Heads classic. At every step of the way here, this band breathes and bends as one.
I'm On Fire; Speak Slow(ly); Bloodshot; In The Quiet; The Wandering Sea; Oceans Of Notions; No Idea; Plain
Song; This Must Be
The Place (Naive Melody).
Joe Policastro: bass; Dave Miller: guitar; Mikel Avery: drums.