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  • Jonathan Widran

DAVE BASS, Trio Nuevo

Veteran pianist Dave Bass will probably never fully outrun the part of his bio where a wrist fracture necessitated a shift away from music for a few decades, during which time he became a prominent attorney and ultimately Deputy Attorney General with the California Office of the Attorney General.

But the nearly 15 years since he began recording again – and the decade in which he’s been back to music full time – are actually far more interesting. While he started out with a bang, introducing the Dave Bass Quartet featuring Ernie Watts, he’s shifted engagingly in the 2020s to the trio format, with stellar results. On Trio Nuevo, his fourth trio collection in four years, Bass closes the set with a wink back at that quart album with a dramatic and frolicsome, piano pounding rendition of “Gone.”

After three volumes of recordings with his original trio of bassist Kerry Kashiwagi and drummer Scott Gordon, his latest compositional journeys led him to refigure his creative path with the new rhythm section (hence, Trio Nuevo) of Tyler Miles (bass) and Steve Helfand (drums). The fresh adventure begins with a fast-bustling, chaotic and offbeat reflection on “These Times” that the pianist calls his “most forward-thinking composition to date.”

Along the way, he balances soulful, improvisation-filled mood swingers like “August” and “December” with two pieces based on classic material - an imaginative, high-energy twist on “My Melancholy Baby” (re-worked as the percussive, high-flying “Baby Melon”) and the elegant meditation “One Look,” inspired by Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” Bass began sharing his lifelong obsession with Bach on two pieces from The Trio, Vol. 1.

He continues with what is surely the most fascinating piece on Trio Nuevo, a delightful, rhythmically unpredictable exercise titled “Three Views on Bach,” which approaches “Partita #2” with free improvisation, a faithful melodic section and a later part that mixes both approaches. The so called “covers” that Bass and the trio enjoy making their own include “As Time Goes By,” Charlie Haden’s “Sandino” (prominently featuring Miles’ plucky basslines), a dramatic spin on Denny Zeitlin’s perfectly titled “Offshore Breeze” and Andrew Hill’s angular, 13-bar romp “Duplicity.”


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