BP Recommends: September 2009

Freddie WashingtonIn the Moment [ www.readyfreddiewashington. com ]

Freddie Washington

In the Moment
[ www.readyfreddiewashington. com ]

For his long-awaited, welldressed debut, the L.A. session legend and Steely Dan bassist reinvents the concept of “quiet storm” with a feel-flush instrumental turn that’s much needed in the stagnant smooth jazz realm. The midnight mood is set right from the title track opener as well as the follow-up cover of Barry Mann’s “When You Get Right Down to It”; both feature Freddie’s succinct melody readings and serpentine fills, which unfurl around spatially panned rhythm sections. Washington’s bronze thumb enters for “Easy Ride” and “Freddie’s Groove,” propelling his piccolo-range lead lines with feel-good open-space slaps.

On the ballad side, “I Can Make It Better,” “Let It Go,” and especially “Do You Remember”—with its oozing horns and “Babylon Sister”-like shuffle—afford a closer look at Washington’s approach: Waste-nonotes melodies complete with subtle vibrato and string bends, and groove-retaining short-phrase solos. For the disc-closing “Set It Off,” Freddie pulls out all the sonic stops: a relentless 16th-based ostinato, filtered and overdriven slap-plucked melody, and solo flights. Add in disc-wide appearances by guests like Patrice Rushen, Joe Sample, Ray Parker Jr., Wah-Wah Watson, and Ndugu Chancler—all of whom helped provide the breeze that created the original quiet storm movement—and this pocketperfect outing will make you wonder why we bothered to invent machines at all. (CJ)

Ivan Bodley

Pigs Feet & Potted Meat
[ www.funkboy.net ]

Best known as one of New York’s top musical directors, bassist Ivan Bodley gathers his keyboardist and drummer, Jim Dower and Joe Goretti, for a goodtime romp through neopreserved grooves that echo Motown, Memphis, P-Funk, ’70s four-on-the-floor, and especially the Meters. “If Only,” “Long Hard Slog,” and “Booty-licious” are among the salted, succulent spin-offs that really jell. (CJ)

Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer

The Melody of Rhythm
[E1 Music]

Record-after-record, upright bassist Edgar Meyer continues to demonstrate his unparalleled command of the instrument. His latest collaboration may seem left-of-center—banjo, tabla, bass, and symphony orchestra—but each soloist is widely considered the preeminent virtuoso on their instrument, so it’s not surprising they find comfort with each other. Meyer and banjoist Fleck have collaborated to great effect in the past, but the addition of tabla master Zakir Hussain pushes the partnership into a truly transcendent zone of musical accomplishment. The pieces fuse Copeland-esque Americana with more exotic Easter textures and rhythms, with the orchestral accompaniment lending a vast and evocative palette. Meyer is stunning throughout. (JH)

Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter, Eric Harland

The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival
[MJF Records]

The Monterey Jazz Festival isn’t only one of the country’s most venerable annual jazz events, it’s also the basis for decades of historic musical collaborations. Formed for the 2007 festival, this astounding quartert features compositions from each member. The result is ultra-sophisticated contemporary jazz played at the highest level. Of particular note is each member’s comfort with odd meters and polyrhythmic phrasing. The ever-shifting rhythmic landscape is fresh and consistently engaging—the perfect framework for the deep and complex harmony. Dave Holland is his usual hard-grooving self, thoroughly unfazed by each tune’s countless twists and turns. (JH)

Travis Larson Band

Rate of Change Live

Based in the idyllic California Coast city of San Luis Obispo, Travis Larson’s instrumental-rock power trio has been stirring up a signature brew of Steve Morse-influenced riffs and grooves for ten years now, and to celebrate they’ve created this abundantly stuffed double- live-CD-plus-bonus-DVD package from a show in late 2008. Bassist Jennifer Young handles the tricky unison runs, chordal tapping, and kinetic form changes like the advanced pro she is, and her solo breaks on “Heads or Tales” and “Times Like These” stand out for their restraint and melodic maturity. But make no mistake: This group is about bringing the unapologetic heat and light of a power trio with no singer, and Young (who co-produced the effort) employs the appropriately ass-kicking approach, taking up her fair share of the sonic space on heavy riff-driven tunes like “Dirty Magic” and “Edges,” and plenty more when required. (BB)

Mike Stern

Big Neighborhood
[Heads Up]

Jazz/fusion über-guitarist Mike Stern throws caution to the wind, assembles a highly unlikely cast of A-listers, and aggressively submerges himself in their divergent timbres and styles for kicks. How unlikely a cast? On “Moroccan Roll,” Stern’s ’90s bassist Lincoln Goines holds it down in an Eastern modality while Dave Weckl plays a quasi-Latin rock groove as Stern and guitarist Steve Vai duel overhead. The second track from that can’t-look-away fantasy band occurs just after three sweet jazz numbers anchored by young phenom Esperanza Spalding, and before two funk workouts featuring Chris Wood on acoustic and electric, with Medeski and Martin along for the ride. Then there’s the South African-flavored burner “Reach,” with Richard Bona ripping his trademark finger-staccato, and a traditional swing blues with Chris Minh Doky on upright. Unfortunately for us low-enders, the closest thing there is to a bass solo on this disc is Goines digging into the classic Stern rock/swing groove of “Long Time Gone,” but that doesn’t make it any less fun to listen to, let alone to imagine conversations that might have taken place during tracking. (BB) BP

BB—Bryan Beller
CJ—Chris Jisi
JH—Jonathan Herrera