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Joe Fonda's swinging straight-ahead trio on 1994's What We're Hearing includes Carlo Morena, a four-year prior collaborator; and Jeff Hirshfield, a relative newcomer to Fonda's musical universe. The trio plays with a degree of tightness and clarity that generally characterizes more long-term associations. The corners are all tucked in on What We're Hearing, a studio performance. (One has the sense that this trio could deliver a much more viscerally exciting performance in the live setting.)
Fonda's abundant soloing on this record obeys a much more obvious melodic order than most of his material. His bass playing in general integrates itself fluidly and unobtrusively into Morena's relatively linear harmonic approach. Carlo Morena, a loose traditionalist, takes conventional forms and personalizes them with a relaxed, singing tone. Morena's three lyrical compositions tend toward a bittersweet, ambivalent sound. Helped along by Hirshfield, the trio stays rhythmically grounded throughout the full hour of improvisation. Occasionally a funky groove pops its head up on What We're Hearing (eg. the drum solo toward the end of the second track), but in general Hirshfield performs what Miles Davis would term "protecting the beat": delivering unrelenting swing on the upbeat material, coupled with understated brushwork on slower pieces. An apt stylistic comparison might be Paul Motian.
What We're Hearing is easily the most straight-ahead recording in Joe Fonda's oeuvre. This delicate performance offers meticulous attention to detail and a potently melodic feel. After hearing this disc, no one could doubt Fonda's ability to work within the traditionlending credence to his frequent trips "out" in other projects.
Track Listing: My Blues; Mars Bars; When It's Time; Begin; Love You, Too; Persuasions:; You Stepped Out Of A Dream.
Personnel: Joe Fonda: bass; Carlo Morena: piano; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.