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Outside The Line

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Audio CD, Import, April 15, 2014
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I first encountered the savvy of Peter Brendler s bass when sizing up Jon Irabagon s wild, seventy-eight minute improvisation ride, Foxy (2010). As the guy placed in between Irabagon s sax and Barry Altschul s drums, they wouldn t have been able to pull this off if not for Brendler s heroics keeping the tune firmly centered while the other two took endless excursions outside of it. Brendler s got a lot of other noteworthy sideman appearances (including an album co-led with guitar legend John Abercrombie just last year), but not nearly enough as the sole leader, because his debut Outside the Line(April 15, 2104, Posi-Tone Records) brings forward the daring and elasticity found in much of his session work. That, and some imaginative composing/interpretations to boot. For his first album, the bassist goes without a piano, guitar or any other chordal instrument, creating more space that his bass can occupy. He s put a tenor sax (Rich Perry) and trumpet (Peter Evans) in front of him and Vinnie Sperrazza s drums alongside his acoustic bass. Outside the Line implies outside jazz, but aside from the relatively brief free jazz exercise Openhanded, the album doesn t explicitly venture into the abyss for more than a segment within a song (such as, the fantastic, well-attuned four-way improvisation found on Indelible Mark ). This isn t to state that there aren t chances being taken all over the LP, because there s plenty of that going on. It gets going right away with a succinct, impish rendering of Chet Baker s Freeway. Evans is on a muted trumpet playing a high-pitched contrast to Perry s tenor. Both seem to be keenly aware that they have a short time to make an impression and make the most of it, with great back and forth between the two. Brendler s got the underlying harmony locked down so well you don t even notice the missing piano, and that s how it goes for the rest of the record. Brendler s original Lawn Darts is in the classic style bop theme but it wobbles and yet never falls down. The rhythm section vacillates effortlessly between blues walk and swing, giving the horns a shifting platform to operate on, and they respond vigorously to the challenge. Brendler often comes up with bass figures that set the groundwork for the development of a song, and Drop The Mittens is one a tune built on his funky repeating figure. Sperrazza s rhythm is festive even as the song is in a dark key. Well into the performance, Brendler unexpectedly switches over to a new figure to signal the changing of the soloing duties from Perry to Evans and the song slows down for a coda composed of yet another motif. Una Muy Bonita is an Ornette Coleman cover that Brendler introduces on his own, setting down the guideposts for the horn players. Just as Evans takes over for Perry, the song is off to the races and the trumpeters tears off lightning fast runs until the song returns its unhurried pace. Lou Reed s Walk On The Wild Side has that iconic blues vamp that is so jazzy, it makes you wonder why this song isn t covered more by the jazz community. Evans undertakes a vulnerable lyrical lead, and Perry harmonizes with Brendler until it s time for him to play his more soulful solo. By at once going inside and outside, as well as respecting tradition and racing toward the frontier, Peter Brendler makes his long overdue first album well worth waiting for. --S. Victor Aaron - Something Else!

Thirteen years after graduating from Berklee and over a decade into his career as a professional bassist, Peter Brendler has taken the plunge and released his first album as leader, Outside The Line. Look before you leap, as they say. Wise advice, if the quality of this debut is anything to go by. Brendler has already shown himself to be a bassist with a wide stylistic and dynamic range powerful and hard-driving on Jon Irabagon's wild and wacky Foxy (Hot Cup Records, 2010), in company with veteran drummer Barry Altschul; gentle and mellow alongside guitarist John Abercrombie on The Angle Below (Steeplechase Records, 2013). His playing on Outside The Line provides further evidence for his adaptability. His sound is characteristically bouncy and fat, but capable of subtle changes, twists and turns drummer Vinnie Sperrazza's lighter touch contrasts well with Brendler's tone. Three disparate cover versions adorn Outside The Line. The band kicks things off with a punchy take on Chet Baker's "Freeway," Peter Evans' muted trumpet flying over Brendler and Sperrazza's driving rhythm. Ornette Coleman's "Una Muy Bonita" is altogether gentler than the composer's version from Change Of The Century (Atlantic, 1959) thanks especially to Rich Perry's tenor sax. Perry starts out by sharing bass duties with Brendler on Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side," helping out with Herbie Flowers' iconic lines while Evans takes on the melody, then takes off with a solo of his own. Sperrazza shares credit with Brendler for building the song's laid-back groove. Brendler's own compositions cover stylistic ground from bebop to free jazz to pre-bop romance. "The Golden Ring" shares something of the rhythmic slinkiness of "Walk On The Wild Side"; "Blanket Statement" mixes Coleman-ish sections with hints of Latin grooves; "Openhanded" moves more completely into free territory. "Drop The Mittens" mixes things up a rock-solid rhythm underpins Evans and Perry's extended solos, Brendler's own fluid solo stands alone. "The Darkness" could have come straight from a '40s crime caper soundtrack bass, drums, tenor and trumpet all hinting at the heist or the hit to come. "Blackout Reunion" also harks back to the '40s, a soundtrack to a film noir affair but before things get too down, "Pharmacology" kicks in and feet are a-tappin.' Exactly what line Brendler and his chums are outside isn't totally clear. A quote from legendary American Football coach Bill Parcells adorns the album sleeve about men with odd-shaped balls and may suggest a sporting metaphor, who knows. What's clear is that Outside The Line confirms Brendler's reputation as a commanding bassist. It also establishes his credentials as a band leader hopefully this is a quartet with staying power and as a composer with a sense of stylistic adventure and an ear for a decent tune. The world really can't get enough of those. --Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz

Nice modern set from bassist Brendler, who brings a strong quartet to the table with drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, trumpeter Peter Evans, and saxophonist Rich Perry. A post-bop album that allows its seams to become frayed and its joints loosened, creating shifts in sound to something freer and untamed... makes for some nice marks of contrast without having to strain album cohesion. Also, a supremely enjoyable rendition of Lou Reed s Walk on the Wild Side. Always nice to see Peter Evans sitting in on an album... one of those names that pretty much guarantees that a recording is going to sound at least a little bit different than others situated in similar territory. --Dave Sumner, Wondering Sound

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Product details

  • Audio CD (April 15, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Posi-Tone Records
  • ASIN: B00J3E3V28
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,179 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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