True to its bare bones, direct as it could get about its intentions title, when veteran pianist Dave Bass released The Trio, Vol. 1 in 2021, it was all about showcasing his, as I put it “whimsy and wonder” filled camaraderie with kindred spirits, Kerry Kashiwagi (bass) and Scott Gordon (drums), who had only officially joined forces a year or so earlier. Yet in a career filled with extraordinary musical comebacks (first from a bad wrist fracture, then from a successful legal career), it could easily have been an incredible, stylistically and rhythmically eclectic one off featuring a specific ensemble assembled for a certain moment – as his 2015 all-star set NYC Sessions and No Boundaries (2019) had been before.
From the wildly adventurous, deeply soulful and lyrical yet often hypnotic and crazily, frenetically and exotically percussive sound of things on the group’s follow-up The Trio, Vol. 2, we can rest assured that Bass plans on vibing dynamically with these cats (and hopefully guitarist Barry Finnerty, who guests on two tracks) for a long time. Besides the effortless ease of conversational flow throughout – both on boisterous breakneck romps like “Tempus Fugit” and sweet gently swinging and lightly frolicsome gems a la “May” – Bass and company clue us in on their long range intention and vision for the future in another unique way.
They re-imagine “The Sixties” (as jubilantly chaotic and shapeshifting as the decade itself) and “Baltic Bolero” (as exotic, dramatic, spirited and sexy as the title might suggest), which Bass originally recorded on NYC Sessions with, among others, the late legendary saxophonist Phil Woods, trombonist Conrad Herwig and bassist Harvie S. Especially with “Baltic Bolero,” which includes Finnerty’s crackling solo, these feel more like definitive versions than fluid arrangements that might change again on another future recording. An artist who reworks with a new lineup songs he first played with icons is one that’s committed to that fresh new sound.
Those are just two of the sparkling and infectious delights on The Trio, Vol. 2, which takes us on a freewheeling and largely unpredictable journey full of colorful motional moodswings via a mix of Bass originals (most impactfully, the trippy, spirit-minded and impressionistic ballad “Yugen”) and pieces by a wide range of composers, artists and personal influences that push this always game trio into a multitude of stylistic directions.
This collection offers a landscape where the plucky strolling bustle of Thelonious Monk’s “Four In One” and Denny Zeitlin’s snappy, breakneck paced “Carole’s Garden” find effortless compatibility with the reflective soft-spokenness of Dimitr Tiomkin’s, the bittersweet ultimately cheerful “I Fall In Love Too Easily” and the angular hypnosis and crackle and fire of the Afro-Cuban barnburner (also featuring Finnerty’s electric snazz) by the Tumbao All-Stars with the funkiest title imaginable, “Gandinga, Mondongo y Sanungo.” Whoever those three guys are, they’ve met their match in the Bass’ group, now one of the most explosive trios in jazz.