Seattle-based composer/bassist Michael Bisio has crafted a sure-fired winner with this release titled, Undulations. The bassist’s well-orchestrated miniatures surge forward with the grace and zeal of a big band, especially on the steamy opener titled, “Doesn’t Really”. Here, West Coast trumpeter Rob Blakeslee goes head to head with viola performer Jim Nolet in concert with an enthusiastic swing vamp as the quintet renders darting lines atop pianist Bob Nell’s blazing arpeggios and swiftly executed single note leads. However, the rapid exchanges between Nolet and Blakeslee are a source of wonderment as the band also melds a quiet fire with pristine yet at times loosely enacted motifs in conjunction with shifty time signatures and tempestuous interplay.
The leader steers the band through intricate maneuvers, which is evident on “Give Up The Chair” where the radiant soloing and torrid pace coexists with subtle undercurrents and oscillating rhythms. Hence, the music breathes vigor and spontaneity amid cascading progressions and imaginative themes as the band finalizes the proceedings with the savage free-bop exposition, “Legends”.
Undulations packs a mighty punch! All in all, Bisio’s perceptive approach and upbeat implementations incorporate disparate elements along with a few nods to Ornette Coleman-like harmolodics and the soloist’s keen reinvention of melodies via passionate improv and controlled discipline. Hopefully, this wonderful recording will not be relegated into a category befitting unknown or hidden treasures as Michael Bisio’s invigorating project looms rather large within the big scheme of things.