George Mraz

Bottom Lines

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A pervasive light touch infuses these performances. It stems from George Mraz's intent to show the bass and the writing of Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, Buster Williams, Ron Carter, Marcus Miller, Steve Swallow, and Mraz himself from a fresh perspective. Mraz's point isn't radical. He simply wants to feature the music of fellow bassists and to quietly articulate a vision for the bass that extends beyond the bottom line. The veteran bassist's superbly accomplished partners for the session are drummer Al Foster, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and tenor player Rich Perry. There is no disputing the validity of Mraz's objective here. What is troubling, though, are the several tracks where the quartet's polite, buttoned-down manner leads to overly fastidious, lightweight performances. This is underscored by the fact that on the best tracks -- Mraz's "Lisa Marie" and Swallow's "Falling Grace"-- the players dispense with the refined manner, allow themselves to explore and achieve a level of communication that surpasses anything else on the CD. It's telling that these are the tracks where the pianist lays out. Chestnut is an elegant, lyrical player, but on this date, he is a fifth wheel (the exception is his Ellington-inspired solo on Carter's "Little Waltz"). Since the opportunity wasn't seized on this session, a natural sequel to Bottom Lines would be for Mraz to record a further set of pieces by bassists, this time with a pianoless trio. Foster and Perry would, again, be ideal partners.

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