This album is a rich mix of originals, jazz standards and songs from the American songbook

Dave Bass Music 003

Dave Bass (piano); Kerry Kashiwagi (double bass); Scott Gordon (drums); Barry Finnerty (guitar – 3 tracks)

No recording information

It’s funny what life throws at you. Dave Bass started playing piano at the age of seven, studied composition with George Russell, and in the 1970s, was playing numerous gigs around the San Francisco Bay Area.

However, one day, he slipped while on his way to a gig, badly fracturing his wrist.

He was told that he wouldn’t play piano again. With a young family to support, Bass switched from music to law, later becoming deputy attorney general in the Californian office of the Attorney General.

It was years later, while attending a private event that Bass was invited to play solo piano, and to his surprise and delight, discovered that the injury had healed to the point where he could play piano at professional level again.

Since then, he has released a handful of albums including Gone (2010); NYC Sessions (2015) and No Boundaries (2018). He has since retired from law to focus on music full time. In 2021, Bass released the first of his trio albums, noting that the trio format is: “The ultimate challenge for a jazz pianist…there is nowhere to hide.”

As the album title neatly explains, this is the third instalment of the trio formation (a second album was released in 2022), which includes Kerry Kashiwagi on bass and Scott Gordon on drums, who both also played on the previous trio releases.

The two men are based in the San Francisco area and it’s easy to see why Bass has continued playing with them – they are consummate musicians. For three numbers, the trio is augmented by the presence of guitarist Barry Finnerty, who has played with Miles Davis, The Crusaders and The Brecker Brothers, as well releasing a number of albums as leader.

This album is a rich mix of originals, jazz standards and songs from the American songbook. The opener, ‘As Long As There’s Music,’ written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne and made famous by Sinatra, has been rearranged by Bass, who switches the time signature from 4/4 to 6/4 and adds a vamp at the coda.

It’s a bright, upbeat opening to the album, starting with a short solo piano section that has Bass playing the high keys. The sound is sparse, delicate and light, and drummer Scott Gordon plays with brushes, caressing his cymbals, while Kashiwagi lays down a solid pulse.

Throughout the piece Bass surprises and delights, such as when he plays a pretty cascading riff midway through the song.

You only need to hear the opening bars of ‘Criss Cross’ to know that this is a Thelonious Monk tune, with its walking bass line and dissonant piano chords. The band plays a solid, swinging version. Bass reworks a tune he recorded for his album, NYC Sessions.

‘Endless Waltz’ originally featured Karrin Allyson on vocals, but here we have an instrumental version. It starts dramatically, with a long, slow build-up comprised of Gordon’s crashing cymbals, Bass’s slow, graceful piano chords and Kashiwagi playing arco bass, before seamlessly switching to ¾ time.

It’s a fine performance. If you’re a fan of James Joyce’s Ulysses you’ll recognise the origins of Bass’s oddly-titled, ‘Angenbite of Inwit,’ which translates as ‘prick of conscience’.’ This is the first number to feature Finnerty, who starts off playing a tense riff composed of single string strikes played over a swinging rhythm section.

Bass lets loose on this number, with a lively solo, followed by an equally energetic solo by Finnerty. This track is one of the album’s many highlights.

Rodgers and Hart’s ‘ With A Song In My Heart’ gives each band member a long solo spot, while ‘El Ciego’ is a bolero with a melancholy feel.

Bass was inspired to cover the tune after hearing Charlie Haden’s version, which featured the violin playing of Federico Britos Ruiz. Bass’s new arrangement is exquisite and his playing is as soft and gentle as a light summer breeze.

The jazz standard ‘Israel’ has strong links with Bill Evans and that inspiration is clearly evident on this version (this is a compliment and not a criticism). Bass plays with great sensitivity and precision, for example, check out the section at 1:39, where the pianist deftly displays his speed, touch and articulation.

‘Blood’ is composed by the American avant-garde musician Annette Peacock, renowned for her electronic music and free-jazz works. This is the most dramatic and free-form number, with crashing cymbals and tumbling percussion, aggressive bass lines, and a large sprinkling of dissonance.

It’s certainly no easy-listening, melodic tune, but it is a captivating piece, coupled with a solid band performance.

Tadd Dameron’s ‘If You Could See Me Now,’ has a relaxed, soothing feel, in contrast to the second Monk tune on the album, ‘Played Twice,’ with its circular piano riffs and assertive bass solo. It’s another tour de force performance by the band.

The last two tracks from the album are reworkings from pieces on Bass’s album, Gone. Both also feature Finnerty’s guitar. The original version of the Andalusian-flavoured ‘Libertango’ featured Ernie Watts on saxophone, but this version has Finnerty’s guitar to the fore. It’s a track filled with drama, fire and passion, and Finnerty plays a lively solo.

The closing number, ‘Another Ending’ combines a bolero with a cha-cha section. It’s played at a slightly faster tempo than the original version. Finnerty plays and sounds like Wes Montgomery in places, Gordon drums with a light touch and Kashiwagi delivers a supple solo. Bass, as ever, plays with great fluency. It’s a gorgeous ending to an impressive album.