First review of the year - Moving Day by the Mark Wade Trio.
Just over two years after Mark Wade released his excellent trio album, Event Horizon, he’s back with its follow up, Moving Day.
I say ‘back’ but in the intervening time he’s been busy with his trio and a multitude of gigs in and around New York as well as far further afield. Moving Day is all about moving on and a chance to do more with his trio: Mark on bass, Tim Harrison on Piano and Scott Neumann on drums.
The album opens with the title track which creates a wide-open vista in sound, propelled by Mark’s beautiful bass tone. There is a positive energy in this tune that speaks of moving on and up. All three players get a chance to shine, the bass and drums especially. I love how the soloing never feels gratuitous, but always a part of the whole.
Wide Open, moves in next. There’s a lot more happening rhythmically here and the band navigate the various time signatures and sections like a bike courier weaving through traffic on a busy city street. In truth, this track made me want to pick up my bass and try to keep up.
The Bells, brings the tempo down but there is still plenty of complexity in the music. Here we get some lush, textural moments, alongside the swing and the stabs. The breezy swagger that leads into a melancholy solo bass and is followed an evocation of ringing bells is like a mini-symphony. Good to hear some arco bass too.
With a title like, Another Night in Tunisia, you know Dizzy Gillespie’s classic is in for a remake. Here the theme is toyed with on the piano, over a tight rhythm section. All the parts fall into place. The bass player in me loved the walking section too, as well as the interplay at the end section, which I imagine is a big favourite with audiences.
Something of a Romance is indeed a romantic voyage that almost demands a glass of wine and some low light. The trio manage to create a cinematic journey, once again fitting in a movie’s worth of mood into a few minutes.
When you play Autumn Leaves, it’s hard to do new things without sounding as if you’ve tried too hard (or not hard enough). Ahmad Jamal pulled it off recently and Mark has managed it too. Hearing some Herbie Hancock (a slice of Maiden Voyage) was a pleasant surprise and so well executed you might wonder why no one has brought these two together before.
Midnight in the Cathedral, opens (and closes) on the cymbals and instantly lets us know we’ve moved to a different space. Out of the club and into a far older arena. Here the trio are using jazz to connect with older forms of music and successfully conjuring up the ambience of an ancient, cavernous cathedral where the music has permeated the walls. This is the track I have revisited more than the others just because it intrigues me. Even in the more straight-ahead sections it feels as if the spirit of the music is connected to some other place and time.
The Quarter brings in the second line and we’re immediately partying in the French Quarter. The sun is bright, the mood is light and the band invites us to dance. This is an infectious tune but it has a surprise at the end as the party seems to wander off and leave us behind.
In the Fading Rays of Sunlight end the album with another highly evocative tone poem of a tune. This time there’s plenty of space all round to help create the mood. A reoccurring theme in all Mark's tunes is this ability to fit so much into a small space. It leaves me wondering if he should write something for an orchestra (or at least strings) some day.
Being a bass player I loved listening to Mark’s masterful use of his instrument. The tone, dynamics and sheer fluidity are a joy. The interplay with his bandmates is also a thing of wonder. Making a piano trio (or should this be a bass trio?) sound fresh in such a saturated market is quite an achievement.
As Sammy Stein says in the liner notes, this is an album that rewards repeated listening. That’s something I look forward to doing.