|| Michael Bisio Quartet
Cat. No.: SHCD107
Michael Bisio bass
Ron Soderstrom trumpet
Rick Mandyck alto sax
Teo Sutton drums
Barbara Bisio percussion
1. For Harry Carney (Johnson) 9:27
2. A Laugh for Rory (Kirk) 1:57
3. Greenpeace (Take 2) (Bisio) 7:58
4. A.M. (Bisio) 5:25
5. Blues for Melodious T. (Bisio) 7:08
6. For Randy Weston (Sutton) 2:29
7. Babs'e (Bisio) 7:09
8. Greenpeace Suite (Bisio) 6:45
9. Darkness (Mandryck) 3:10
10. For Pamela (Mandryck) 9:17
11. Sonny Miles (Soderstrom) 2:04
Total time: 62:49
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"This is fine and varied modern jazz from Seattle; cleanly executed, intelligently
structured, well focused and quite hot..."
Kevin Whitehead, Cadence, October 1988
"Bisio is definitely someone to watch, and his horn players are right behind
with their full-bodied sound. This is a tremendously good record, typical 80s
jazz with a background in the music of Mingus and Ornette Coleman, together with
the work of Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and their ilk."
Birger Jorgensen, Aahus Stiftstidende, March 14, 1988
I was talking to Michael Bisio in his basement studio in Seattle one Saturday
afternoon not too long ago our families had gotten together for a barbecue
and I said, "You know it's strange, Mike, your new record,
it's very 'inside' music there are tunes and then improvisations on the
chord changes of the tunes but it's not like so many records that you hear
today where you feel like the players don't even know that 'outside' players like
Albert Ayler and Don Cherry ever existed."
"That's it, that's exactly how I hear it."
It's not often that a jazz writer gets to check his perceptions against a musician's,
so this was a welcome confirmation, one made convenient by Michael Bisio's delightful
presence in Seattle these past years. Since his arrival in 1976 it has been a
pleasure to watch Bisio's music grow. Trained as a classical bassist, first at
the State University of New York at Albany, then at the University of Washington
(where he graduated in music in 1979), Michael makes his living playing the double
bass. In symphony, ballet and opera orchestras; on casual dates; or in jazz groups,
Bisio's generous, woody sound can be heard all over the Northwest, bowed, plucked
or otherwise. His jazz talents were first tapped locally by the great trumpet,
Barbara Donald, who used him on her 1982 album "Pasts and Tomorrows",
(Cadence CJR-1017). Bisio went on to record one of the most exciting albums to
ever emerge from our area, his 1983 "Ours" (C.T. Records CT1), voted
by the critics at Cadence as one of the ten best albums of that year.
Bisio's influences as a bass player are easy to cite the wide, soulful
sweep of Charles Mingus and the probing, moody double-stops of Charlie Haden.
In Bisio the composer, I hear Mingus again in the young bassist's dark and slinky
horn parts and in his insistence on continuously-evolving forms that follow emotional
content instead of dictating it. I hear Ornette Coleman, too his lonely,
passionate wail; his blues; his open space. Mike's new record has a different
element a spare, minimalist quality, a skeletal clarity of intention that
calls to mind Max Roach's pianoless groups.
But spare doesn't mean simple. Bisio's music is complex. That same afternoon we
spent talking together, Mike related that on a recent gig where altoist Rick Mandyck
had to call a sub, the hapless surrogate, wiping his brow with exhaustion, said,
"Man, you guys make this stuff look easy!" Part of what makes it look
easy is that Bisio and Teo Sutton hook up so well. "Teo is the only drummer
I've worked with who really understands my music," Mike says. "So many
guys, they figure, Oh hey, free music! let's go wild and you feel
like you're in Vietnam." What Michael's looking for is subtlety and clarity,
and he gets it from Teo on complicated meters and patterns, such as the two-against-three
figure on "Babs' E" (and its 7/4 coda); the weird, ticking, 16-beat
bass vamp on Mandyck's exquisitely dark "For Pamela"; and the
bright and easy calypso written for Michael's three-year-old son, Anthony, "A.M."
Sutton, originally from Philadelphia, has been a sometime sideman on the Seattle
scene with Barbara Donald, tenor man Hadley Caliman and others. He recently put
in some time with organist John Patton, back in Newark, New Jersey. Trumpeter
Ron Soderstrom is a Seattle native who has recorded with pianist Scott Cossu and
worked on the R&B and show band circuits in the Northwest. There aren't too
many trumpet players who have absorbed both Freddie Hubbard and Don Cherry, but
Ron's burbling and articulate excursion on "For Pamela" lets
you know he's one who has. Saxophonist Rick Mandyck, who started out on guitar
but has been playing sax for eight years, comes out of the Seattle rhythm and
blues scene. Dig Rick's sharp attack, fleet phrasing and tone a cross between
Dolphy and Jackie Mclean.
There's a wealth of music on this album. "For Harry Carney,"
a Sy Johnson tune that Bisio was inspired to interpret from one of Charles Mingus'
albums, starts off with a lonely and distant trumpet, then features a stately
bass vamp under the horn solos. "A Laugh for Rory" by Roland
Kirk, is a short, staccato shot in the arm that's over fast, like a shooting star,
and just that flashy, too.
"A.M." is a bright and loping calypso that perfectly captures
the happy, early morning mood of a kid running around the house. "Blues
for Melodious T," as you might expect, works minor-second magic at a
Monkish, medium tempo and then surprises you when the horns come in behind Bisio's
solo and end the tune all by their lonesomes. Perfect! "Bab's E"
sets up a dark bass complemented by the tom-toms; the two horns have an animated
conversation in the foreground that builds until it has to explode somewhere,
which it does, into another tempo. Only two of "Greenpeace Suite's"
four parts are played here "Birds" and "Whales."
The first section flies, indeed, at times like a nervous swallow and at others
like a graceful bird of prey.
"Whales" is a sad, aching cry, a plea for survival? "For
Pamela," with Mike's wife Barb on hand percussion, has all the qualities
that make this an exciting and mature jazz album. Structurally it is brilliant,
not only in the way the alternating and unexpected bass pattern bounds beneath
the stretched, suspended-in-time horn line but how, after the solos, it suddenly
opens up into a new theme, as if all the dark intensity that went before had to
break open to some bright, new place. Wow!
These are the kinds of moments we're used to getting in the most intense and committed
"free" music the little surprises and twists, the big shifts
of perception. But here they all are, within the "inside" framework
of tunes and changes. That's a lot of what jazz in the 80's is all about, and
Michael Bisio is right up there with the best. At least that's exactly how I hear
Paul de Barros