John Menegon's Search Light
is not only witty, atmospheric, and thoroughly engaging from one end to the other, it argues against the frequent error of perceiving the role of the bass too narrowly. The bass is so often thought of as the engine room of jazz ensembles, providing the rhythmic pulse and harmonic core, that many people find it hard to think of it doing much else. On Search Light,
John Menegon shows, without self-indulgence, that the bass can define the character of an ensemble as clearly and fully as any other instrument. The entire project has a sure-footedness, a quiet, elegant muscularity radiating from Mr. Menegon's own playing, immediately apparent and compelling.
This quiet, engaging setting is ideal for Menegon's harmonically adventurous, rhythmically textured original compositions, played here with innovative instrumentation, notably the voice, bass and flute trio that states the melody on the title track "Search Light" and the bass and saxophone treatment of the melody in "Last Chance," a clever, distinctive homage to bop.
Mr. Menegon is often introduced as "Dewey Redman's bassist," and although that’s certainly an association to be proud of, Search Light
ought to start people thinking of Menegon in his own right, as the master bassist and composer that this recording demonstrates him to be. The band is made up entirely of accomplished players, the best known being, in fact, saxophonist Dewey Redmanwho is, once again, brilliant, and wonderful. Contributions are made throughout by drummer Mark McLean, drummer and percussionist Tani Tabbal, guitarist Mark Dziuba, saxophonist and flautist John Gunther, and on two selections vocalist Teri Roiger.
This review originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of All About Jazz - New York