Dave Bass, NYC Sessions (Whaling City Sound)
In the 1970s when pianist Dave Bass thought that a broken wrist had ended his career, he dropped out of music and into law school. Eventually, he became deputy attorney general of California. Through the years Bass continued to play, but not publicly until he agreed in 2005 to sit in at a party. He told liner note writer Bob Blumenthal that one of the musicians invited him to a jam session, where he discovered how much he missed music, “and it just came pouring out.” That led to revitalization of his jazz life, then to a 2009 album, Gone, and now to NYC Sessions.
The collaboration with bassist Harvie S and drummer Ignacio Berroa discloses a pianist with feeling, taste, technique and gifts as a composer, arranger and lyricist. Alto saxophonist Phil Woods is on six of the eleven pieces, at 83 brimming with vigor, fresh ideas and—on “Baltic Bolero”— plaintiveness that captures the essence of the bolero form. There are guest appearances by trombonists Conrad Herwig and Chris Washburne, flutist Enrique Fernandez, percussionist Carlos Caro and singers Karrin Allyson and Paulette McWilliams. Bass’s lyrics may not be in a league with Johnny Mercer’s or Lorenz Hart’s, but Allyson uses softness and understatement to make the most of the ballads “Endless Waltz” and “Lost Valentine.” The passion in McWilliams’ voice is suited to the blues character and inflections of “Since I Found You” and “Just A Fool.” The Latin nature of several pieces is a striking aspect of the album; Bass’s and Woods’ simpatico relationship in “Silence” is a high point. With this welcome release, Dave Bass seems to have declared that, at 65, he’s back.
Tiempo Libre, Panamericano (Universal Music Latino)
This is Tiempo Libre’s fourth album since the conservatory-trained young Cubans emigrated to the US and formed their band in Miami in 2001. Like its predecessors, the new collection is based in Cuba’s eclectic timba tradition, melding elements of salsa, rhythm and blues, jazz patterns in the horn section and several strains of Afro-Cuban folk music. Its hallmarks are irresistible rhythms, vocal choruses delivered with passion, good cheer and—often—irony, as in “Dime Que No.” Panamericano, in keeping with its title, incorporates influences from other regions of Latin America as well as Cuba. Tiempo Libre is capable of not only extrovert excitement but also lyricism and reflection. Case in point: the relatively slow “Grandpa,” with its lovely flute work by Fabian Álvarez, one of several guest artists.