It’s reassuring to hear groups making new strides and attracting new audiences in our cities and communities, one such group being the Bob Long Trio. Straight Roads,
the group's first release as a trio on Illinois’ Cellar Records, is an affirmation of the joy, struggle, loneliness and companionship of working jazz artists.
With a modern approach, and a varied repertoire of not-exactly-standards and originals, keyboardist Bob Long and bandmates Dave Marr (bass), and Tim Davies (drums) keep your interest piqued throughout this introspective album.
The trio works beautifully together as a cohesive unit. Notable is the timbre of Marr’s bass juxtaposed against Long’s organ, which commands a great presence and assured style, harmony and rhythmic intensity. Marr often goes off and does his own thing, playing only altered tones on Joey Calderazzo’s "Midnight Voyage," yet somehow it still works. Davies provides inspiration and color throughout Billy Strayhorn’s "Upper Manhattan Medical Group" (most often known as "U.M.M.G") and on Wayne Shorter’s "Night Dreamer." The album reminds me of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi years on Warner Brothers. The psychedelic yet funky and swinging nature of the material just puts me in that '70s Herbie mindset. For a guy to be compared to Herbie Hancock in my book is a statement. Good job Bob!
If you are planning on being in Chicago, do not pass up an opportunity to go see the Bob Long / Brian Gephart Group at the Green Mill on Friday nights. If you don’t see yourself in Chicago any time soon, your best substitute is Straight Roads.