June 25, 2024

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CD review: John Hebert – Sounds Of Love 2022: Video, CD cover

John Hébert is an articulate, broadminded artist who has been contributing to the jazz panorama with his excellent bass skills. A reliable member of the Fred Hersch Trio, Hébert left his mark on modernistic projects led by the guitarist Mary Halvorson, saxophonists Michael Attias and Steve Lehman, and trumpeter Johnathan Finlayson.

Not to mention that he was a sturdy rhythmic pillar on the last Blue Note effort of the late pianist Andrew Hill. Songs of Love, his fourth outing as a leader, is a dedication to the amazing bass player Charles Mingus, and features an all-star quintet composed of altoist Tim Berne, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, pianist Fred Hersch, drummer Ches Smith and the bassist himself.

Expertly layered, Hébert’s “Constrictor” gets on the road with expressionistic muted cornet, and then adds quiet piano. Measured bass notes and shiny cymbal blend magically before a fine groove lopes along with an easygoing three time feel. Adhering to the ear, this blues-based, free-flowing narrative catalyzes Berne and Bynum to cooperate. They chip in with conjoint work before the saxophonist jumps out for a gripping solo. Hersch comes next in line – enjoyably sober and full of radiance – in anticipation of a final section infused with parallel lines.

The bandleader also penned the next piece, “The Blank-Faced Man”. Introduced by an itchy drum solo, the piece’s sense of hastiness is further imposed by the bass groove. At this point, the two horn players are free to ramble, but the atmosphere takes a turn into a more meditative, subtly emotional chamber duo passage with prominent arco bass and alto. The classical lyricism leads to other instrumental combinations, and contrary to the expected, the group never returns to that dynamic groove of the middle section.

Two Mingus compositions – from the 1974 album Changes One – were tackled here. “Duke Ellington’s Song of Love” is a highlight that kicks off with Hebert’s bass eloquence, mostly delivered sans accompaniment, and only occasionally supported by minimal percussion. It then enters into ballad mode, when its wondrous charm shines with the same timeless appeal of Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady”. The classy mainstream jazz returns with “Remember Rockefeller at Attica”, whose exuberant melody and chord changes make us revive the best of Mingus’ later period, but with fresher sounds. We’re presented with intriguing horn calls at first, followed by a percussion essay. There’s plenty of space for the soloists, but it’s Bynum who stands out by painting outside the lines with oblique strokes and quirky runs.

Hebert’s “Frivolicity” concludes the album, boasting an inventive solo piano intro, meandering unison lines, a bass groove loosely based on Mingus’ “Sue’s Changes”, and imaginative horn statements.

Conveyed with both authority and refinement, this is a record well worth snapping up.

1. Constrictor (10:03)
2. The Blank-Faced Man (8:33)
3. Duke Ellington’s Sounds of Love (12:32)
4. Love What? (6:55)
5. Remember Rockfeller at Attica (9:18)
6. Frivolocity (4:32)

John Hébert – bass
Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet
Tim Berne – alto saxophone
Fred Hersch – piano
Ches Smith – drums & percussion

Sounds of Love | John Hébert

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