Over the course of 15 plus recordings since 1987, Bobby Previte has learned that sometimes the best projects result from pure and unexpected serendipity. One of the original figures in the late-'70s and early-'80s "downtown" scene in New York City, the veteran drummer had always wanted to take the cutting-edge music of his 1987 debut Bump the Renaissance on the road. In 1998, he put together an amazing new band centered around the swinging trio of Previte, pianist and longtime associate Wayne Horvitz, and electric bass legend Steve Swallow. The plan was for one tour, to play the older music (including selections from 1987's Pushing the Envelope) with the new band. The amazing, unpredictable chemistry, however, led Previte & Bump to tour Europe five times and create a batch of new compositions that rank among the drummer's most dynamic ever. This explosive period of creativity is chronicled on the nine tracks of Just Add Water, which features the trio's powerful ensembling with the horns of trombonist Ray Anderson and saxophonist Marty Ehrlich. The playful title of the nearly 12-minute opening track "Put Away Your Crayons" reflects the ensemble's spirited approach. The tune begins with Anderson's quiet trombone over Previte's gentle brushes, then builds tension as Anderson and Ehrlich join in synch with Previte's drum rolls before things get funky and jamming. The soulful sax-driven ballad "Nice Try" is followed by the jumpy "Leave Here Now," which blends Horvitz's plucky piano, Ehrlich's swinging tenor, and odd, otherworldly sound effects. The next three tracks -- "'53 Maserati," the brief interlude "'63," and "Stingray" -- demonstrate the intense swingability of Bump. The first has a salsa groove and a section blending honking sax and trombone with funky piano harmonies. A section of "Stingray" finds the horns going wild over Previte's trademark electrifying drumming. "Everything I Want" is multi-faceted, with Anderson modulating his bone to be crazy and witty one minute, then melancholy over a marching groove the next. "All Hail Kirby!" mixes a stride piano element with unusual, multi-tone bone accents and cymbal crashes. "Theme From an Imaginary Denouement" wraps up the set with a thoughtful late night elegance.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran