As a rule, I've always found it a pleasure to listen to albums that feature a combo led by a bassist, and this one is no exception. Tom Knific, a Professor of Double-Bass and Director of Jazz Studies at Western Michigan University, here presents a well-rounded look at the jazz ballad. There are no star turns or long solos, despite the presence of many players who are fully capable of providing them.
Pianist Fred Hersch appears on two tracks with Knific and drummer Tim Froncek for a very Bill Evans-ish "If I Should Lose You" and the original "The Baron," dedicated to Knific's father. The Martino/Brighetti ballad "Estate," often confused as a bossa tune, is delivered by vocalist Sunny Wilkinson, Knific, and acoustic master guitarist Gene Bertoncini. I've sat five feet away from Bertonicini's fretboard in clubs and marvelled at his fingerstyle ability. On "You Don't Know What Love Is," the duet of Tom Knific and Wilkinson's vocal is delivered in a smoky cabaret style. Billy Drewes, one of the most frequently called studio sax players, is here heard taking the lead on "Dark Angel," presenting it as a warm Getz ballad. Guitarist John Abercombie is heard on two tracks with Andy LaVerne and Knific, providing an intimate jazz trio of piano, bass, and guitar. Finally, the melancholy "A Portrait of Thad," a Roland Hanna original, closes the album with the haunting melody played by Renata Artman Knific on violin. Hanna is on board supporting the group for this finale.
Tom Knific does get the opportunity for solo work, notably on his ballad duet with Wilkinson and the trio with Abercrombie/LaVerne. His rounded tone reminds me a bit of Scott LaFaro in terms of its intimacy with the other musicians.
Track Listing: If I Should Lose You, Estate, Siena, Dark Angel, You Don't Know What Love Is, The Baron, A Nice Idea, Que Cosa, Portrait of Thad.
Personnel: Tom Knific, bass with (aggregate personnel) John Abercrombie,guitar(3,7); Gene Bertoncin,guitar(2,8); Renata Artman Knific, violin (9); Billy Drewes, saxophone (4); Fred Hersch,piano(1,6); Sir Roland Hanna,piano (9); Andy LaVerne,piano(3,4,7); Sunny Wilkinson,vocals (2,5); Tim Froncek,drums (1,6); Jamey Haddad, drums(4).
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.