There comes a time in a veteran artist’s journey when the music he’s creating in the present is so substantial and dynamic that all the foundational earlier parts of his life that once drove the narrative fall away. Some of pianist Dave Bass’ fans – and certainly newcomers to the harmonically and rhythmically eclectic experience of his extraordinary artistry – may still find it fascinating that a wrist fracture sidelined his once thriving career for years, and he went to law school and became a California Deputy Attorney General.
Yet with the release of The Trio, Vol. 3 – the third album in a phenomenal series launched in 2021 – the story is all about the, effortlessly conversational, dynamic and adventurous vibe Bass is creating with bassist Kerry Kashiwagi and drummer Scott Gordon – with guitarist Barry Finnerty adding his fiery electric guitar edges so prominently at times that on three tracks on Vol. 3 (most notably creating a wild, dizzying improv on the funky and bustling “Agenbite of Inwit,” named for a phrase in James Joyce’s Ulysses) that we could title this album The Quartet and not feel we were infringing on the titular concept.
Besides the alternately sensitive, often whimsical and always intuitive playing (which is the foundation of what the pianist has referred to as their “wonderful telepathy”), the true joy of Vol. 3, like the previous volumes, is the rollercoaster mood swinging taking place as they journey, for instance, from the lyrical, lilting and sweetly sparkling Cahn/Styne (popularized by Sinatra) 40’s gem “As Long As There’s Music” and the plucky, angular, and increasingly bustling Monk jam “Criss Cross” to the gentle romantic flavor of Bass’ original “Endless Waltz” and the sly, swinging romp through Rodgers & Hart’s timeless “With a Song in My Heart.”
It speaks favorably to the pianist’s compositional prowess that his handful of infectious compositions - culminating in the rhythmically eclectic closer “Another Ending,” featuring Finnerty’s blast of rock-jazz intensity on the unexpected “cha-cha” section – hold up beautifully next to essential contemporary re-imaginings of the classic bolero “El Ciego” (the blind), the Miles popularized “Israel” (which first appeared on Birth of the Cool) and Piazzola’s fast and frenetic tango nuevo classic “Libertango.” Considering how prolific the trio has been this decade, let’s just say it because we know it will happen sooner than later– Bring on Vol. 4!