Monday, August 31, 2015

Michael Bisio, Accortet

It has been a long road for bassist, composer, leader Michael Bisio. I measured the span of his experiences, or rather he told of them to me in my extensive interview with him published a few years ago in All About Jazz (look it up on their site). And yet of course the road rolls on, with some exceptional interactions of late with piano master Matt Shipp and, in a CD due out this September 11th, Accortet (Relative Pitch 1040).

Accortet brings together an excellent and unusual quartet in an all-Bisio composition set. What is unusual is the presence of the accordion as a central component of the sound, in place of a piano or guitar as the chordal and improvisatory fulcrum point of the music. Art Bailey plays it with true artistry, comping, lining, doing it all as perhaps only he can. On cornet is Kirk Knuffke, a player who has become a central figure in the new jazz these days. His playing here gives us many reasons why. On drums is the talented and swinging Michael Wimberly, who holds forth with a propulsive and well throught-out time-and-beyond. Then of course Michael comes at us on double bass, in the ensemble and in the solo realm.

Michael's playing processes the bass from its rootedness in jazz tradition through the avant in ways that show him one of the primary stylistic and virtuoso masters of the bass arts today. He has a pizzicato and a bowing approach that identify him immediately (in a blindfold test, let's say) as a player with the deep tone of bass greats yet a mercurial imagination that makes for noteful significance and real originality. You can hear that very much on the Accortet sides.

There are nine excellent compositional vehicles, some swinging and changes-based, others outside and multi-tempoed in a free way. They help make this release central.

And then the way the foursome work together collectively and individually is something to hear. There is inspired lucidity in the improvisational interactions. Knuffke gives us some of his best work, Bailey is terrific, Wimberly does everything right and of course Michael comes through with some of his most varied and eloquent playing, channeling everything into a Bisionian expression. You can listen to what he does alone with great profit. But of course it is in the end the totality which excels, the combination of great tunes and great playing.

It is a bellweather of where Michael has gone but especially where he is. He has come far and this shows us some of that traveling as well as the current state-of-the-art.

Michael Bisio tops the list not only of bassists today, but also of complete jazz artists. The album has a beautifully totalized quality to it. It is essential as a present-day example of not just the bass arts, but the jazz arts, too. Grab a copy!!

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