Just when you think that the offerings of pianists in the setting of a piano trio is becoming a tad tired, along comes a recording that makes you sit up and take notice… and realise that in the right pair of hands the piano trio can become something altogether bracing – and breathtaking. The “right hands”, in this instance [as in many instances past] are those belonging to Dave Bass. It isn’t hard to notice why it’s easy to fall prey to the charms of Mr Bass and to be smitten by his considerable gifts.
Mr Bass – first and foremost – seems to be a student of the history of music. Being a “student” these days connotes someone who is being formed; not yet mature… Mr Bass is both of those things. And younger musicians should note how they can be used to considerable advantage. For one thing: Mr Bass is acutely aware of the “history” and the “musical ancestors” who have gone before him. Secondly, the pianist has never lost his sense of curiosity.
This has resulted in many hours of study and probing the heart and soul of every musical composition on this album, humbly – and nondescriptly – entitled The Trio Vol. 2; also something you should not miss as in doing so Mr Bass gives notice that everything he does is always in the service of the music he pays homage to and never to obscure it through gratuitous virtuosity.
And speaking of virtuosity Mr Bass has this in spades. Consider how he navigates the diabolical twists and turns – and conflicting personalities – of “El Cordobés” a composition by the incomparable Annette Peacock about a matador who is by turns heroic and vulnerable. Consider how the pianist makes this dichotomy work musically by using seemingly opposing counter-melodies and rhythmic variances to conjure “El Cordobés”.
Consider also how adept Mr Bass is as he runs down “Tempis Fugit” a manic composition by the great Bud Powell. If ever there was a preternatural composition by Mr Powell, then this is it. Mr Bass makes you think of Bud Powell – every moment that his life unwound and disintegrated into darkness. And yet the music remains triumphant – Bud Powell’s triumph over disability in every single way – melodic, harmonic and rhythmic in what is written and in how Mr Powell made those notes take wing.
Mr Bass’ take on “Four in One”, that magical and quixotic work by [His Royal “Outness”] Thelonious Monk is also quite remarkable – most of all because Mr Bass puts such an individualistic spin on the melody as well as in the rhythmic invention that he impels the melody with. The sublime darkness that Mr Bass imparts to “Black Monday” by Andrew Hill is altogether superb.
To go back to the fact of Mr Bass being an avid learner one must say that his depth of understanding of standards is quite remarkable. But just as remarkable is the manner in which he also finds something new with which to “sing” the song’s melody. “Green Leaves of Summer”, “I Fall in Love too Easily” and “Love Letters” are pure musical gold.
There are two wonderful examples of the pianist’s understanding and love for Afro-Cuban music: “Baltic Bolero” and the mambo “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga” by that irrrepressible genius Frank Emilio Flynn. And finally when you have so much to say musically you’d better have musical partners who are attuned to your artistic vision.
These Mr Bass has found in contrabassist Kerry Kashiwagi and drummer Scott Gordon. Both men are not exactly musical wall-flowers and find ways to express their own musicality on many occasions. Having guitarist Barry Finnerty along for the ride is easily the apogee of this production – especially on “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga”…
Tracks – 1: El Cordobés; 2: May; 3: Tempis Fugit; 4: Yugen; 5: Four in One; 6: Black Monday; 7: Carole’s Garden; 8: Green Leaves of Summer; 9: The Sixties; 10: I Fall in Love too Easily; 11: Love Letters; 121: Baltic Bolero; 13: Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga
Musicians – Dave Bass: piano; Kerry Kashiwagi: contrabass; Scott Gordon: drums. Special Guest – Barry Finnerty: guitar
Released – 2022
Label – Independent
Runtime – 1:02:42
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