The Tone Sharks


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Along the way, the Tone Sharks have had their share of lineup changes -- and that's been a positive thing because it has prevented them from becoming predictable. Not that predictability is necessarily a terrible thing; swing-to-bop tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, for example, can be predictable in a good way -- he's a soulful, expressive, charismatic player who generally excels by staying in his comfort zone. But the Tone Sharks aren't about comfort zones; they prefer to experiment, which is why no one who seriously appreciates and understands the group would expect one of their albums to emulate the last one. Recorded on April 5, 2003, Four/Five/Three finds drummer Dave Storrs leading a septet lineup that employs Reed Wallsmith on alto sax, Mark Bakalar on vocals, trombone, and guitar, Tom McNalley on guitar, Page Hundemer on electric bass, Keith Brush on acoustic bass, and Mike Klobas on drums -- and this new lineup yields its share of interesting surprises. Hearing an acoustic and an electric bassist playing side by side is certainly intriguing -- it isn't something that happens every day in jazz -- and the use of vocals also adds to the intrigue. However, the Tone Sharks are still an instrumental group, and the vocals that Bakalar contributes aren't your typical jazz vocals; it isn't like the Tone Sharks feature him on a bunch of Gershwin songs and then take turns soloing. Rather, this 66-minute CD favors group improvisation, and Bakalar provides vocal improvisations when he feels it adds something to the dialogue. Arguably, the trombone player is still thinking like an instrumentalist when he vocalizes. Four/Five/Three isn't the Tone Sharks' most essential release, but it's a respectable, exciting disc that underscores Storrs' willingness to try different things and keep moving forward.