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There must be something in Philadelphia’s water supply that spawns great bass players. How else do you explain Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, Jamaldeen Tacuma, Charles Fambrough, Gerald Veasley and Christian McBride?
Victor Bailey is yet another outstanding Philly product. Bailey straddles the line between pop-jazz and fusion on Lowblow, his second solo release. Backed by a stellar supporting cast that includes Kenny Garrett, Bill Evans, Jim Beard, Dennis Chambers, Omar Hakim and Wayne Krantz, Bailey lets loose on some funky fusion originals offset by a few mellow instrumentals.
One of the most in-demand electric bassists in contemporary jazz, Bailey is best known for his work with The Zawinul Syndicate, Weather Report, Steps Ahead and Madonna. It took 10 years for Bailey to record this second solo release. He would have done so sooner if the labels had not demanded that he pander to smooth-jazz radio. With Lowblow the bassist hopes to call attention to his composing skills, but his bass playing still steals the show.
The title track is a dreamy yet funky piece that has the leader vocalizing in unison with his rapid-fire bass. "Do You Know Who/Continuum" is a note-for-note remake of the Jaco Pastorius tune "Continuum" on which Bailey sings lyrics he penned many years ago in tribute of the late Jaco. Bailey’s singing is a bit reedy, but his words obviously come from the heart.
"Sweet Tooth," features a slow-grooving bass line and creative blowing by Garrett on soprano sax. "Jerk Reaction" is a soaring number with spirited guitar work by Krantz. "Graham Cracker" is a funky showcase for Bailey’s slap-bass pyrotechnics. The slower melodies "She Left Me" and Feels Like A Hug" offer tender interludes between funk cuts, but both songs would have benefited from less synthesizer and more sax. More successful is "Babytalk," a pensive melody featuring subtle performances by Bailey on electric bass, Beard on electric piano and Chambers on brushes.
Though Bailey hasn't completely abandoned his pop-jazz tendencies, Lowblow is a mostly impressive collection of electric jazz from the monster bassist and his talented cohorts. Any fan of funky fusion – especially of Stanley Clarke or Jaco Pastorius should appreciate this one.