From the opening chord, which establishes the mood and harmonic landscape in a single lovely cluster of notes, there is much to love about Tidewater bassist Chris Brydge’s latest release.
The opener, “Sun Song,” is a 9-minute, richly melodic slow burner with relaxed solos from the RVA-Tidewater band. Pianist Justin Kauflin and drummer Emre Kartari both played on Brydge’s very good 2020 debut, “Crossing the Water.” The new album adds guitarist Alan Parker (Poser, Spacebomb house band) and Taylor Barnett (No BS! Brass), significantly expanding the tonal palette.
The set is mostly Brydge originals, with the exception of Charles Mingus’ “Eclipse” with vocals from Brydge’s longtime partner, singer Liz Terrell. While remaining individually distinctive, the overall feel is of a classic-era ECM recording – that includes the cover art.
Kartari’s ceaselessly shifting, broken rhythms evoke the period, as does Parker’s often early-period Pat Metheny comping and Barnett’s Kenny Wheeler-tinged, burnished flugelhorn. Pianist Kauflin’s synesthetic approach treats music as color, resulting in a painterly approach to the musical landscape.
The lead instruments are charming from the start to the exotica-tinged finale. Brydge shapes every song with a full, fluent attack that rewards close listening. It makes this a great test record for the earbud era. If his balanced attack seems either over-amped or hard to hear, it may be time for an upgrade.