The notes to Edward Simon’s recent trio collaboration with the team of Patitucci, and the ace drummer Brian Blade, describe the bassist as somewhat larger than life. Seems fair, and Patitucci also has and fulfills ambitions as a guitarist, using a six-string electric bass. “The Root”, opening this themed set, is rather a series of rounds of interplay with Adam Rogers on electric guitar than a standard jazz performance, except for Brian Blade’s development of rhythmic patterns throughout.
Chris Potter’s tenor saxophone joins in on “Agitato”, rather livelier, still tied to a notion of modal fugue, the leader on upright double bass. On “Circular”, a pretty guitar theme is followed by Patitucci making clear why he’s a talking point after gigs with his longtime boss Wayne Shorter. Potter is on great form, with more opportunities, on “Folklore,” where Rogers’s lyrical guitar playing again catches the ear. As do the bassist and the forever imaginative Blade.
This is jazz on the border with European concert music, not the “Third Stream” combination essayed long ago by Gunther Schuller and John Lewis, or a sort of thing bassists these days tend to do, making nice music not so much beyond as lacking category. Not affording anything to listen for, such pretty stuff goers into the background. Patitucci here simply skips across and back over the line which distinguishes jazz from European concert music, which of course Bix Beiderbecke did, and pianists have been doing for a long time in support of even quite wild saxophonists playing harmonically complex stuff. Patitucci’s previous set hadn’t much jazz because it went back to gospel, latin, and other music influential on jazz, and developed each of these strands on its own lines.
Here the mix includes the string quartet in which the bassist’s wife, Sachi, plays cello. This isn’t the jazz with strings phenomenon founded on a notion of strings as sub Nelson Riddle, a genre which somehow suited such driving players as Charlie Parker and (amazingly) the sometimes rug-ripping sound of Wild Bill Davison’s cornet. This is nearer Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter, but from the other side. I’m reminded of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, though neither of them lived long enough to encounter anything like the bass guitar which Patitucci works out on with string quintet here: Patitucci’s “Theme and Variations for Six-String Bass and Strings.”
The title track’s switch to an instrumentation with Rogers, Potter, and Blade allows an interesting demonstration of resemblance within difference: for some listeners that could be a bridge to one music from the other, with a tour de force for Potter, at brisker than medium tempo, and Rogers again. There are some Monkish lines in what’s a major key theme, and the next title is indeed Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence”, for electric guitar, electric bass, and drums. It’s a nice translation of the electric guitar to something like a blues style intro, and a blues ending to a very good solo. Rogers also conjures very nice harmonies supporting Patitucci’s bebop electric bass, and Blade’s solo is another reminder of how drum solos on Monk’s own performances could relate to the whole.
It’s the full acoustic upright entirely solo on the next one, truly magnificent sound, using resonance and fingers to do things this reviewer remembers (when very young) seeing the ace Mississippi blues guitarist Fred McDowell deliver with a slide on one finger of his left hand: “Jesus is on the Mainline”. Wow!
Then there’s more of the English-sounding pastoral music on “Incarnation” with the quartet, including Mr. & Mrs. Patitucci making sweet music together, and separately, John on bowed bass, Sachi cello. “Soaring” is another of the same, first with upright bass then electric bass, the latter still not taking things into the land of jazz. Patitucci can speak more than one language fluently. The closer’s a pretty little thing, “Tone Poem” for solo electric bass. Sort of brings things together.