It's been 11 years between solo albums for bassist Victor Bailey, the man who replaced Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report and who currently holds down the groove for the Zawinul Syndicate. Low Blow is an incremental leap forward from where he left off in 1988 with his Atlantic debut, Bottom's Up. With rock solid backbeats and hip time displacement from Dennis Chambers and Omar Hakim, his former rhythm tandem partner in both Weather Report and on tour with Madonna, Bailey hooks up a formidable pocket on this fresh collection of funk-fusion. Along the way, he also showcases impressive chops alongside such hotshot soloists as saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Bill Evans, keyboardists Jim Beard and Michael Bearden and guitarist Wayne Krantz.
Bailey carries the melody with Mu-Tron-inflected basslines on the Stevie Wonder-ish "City Living," which peaks with some fuzoid heroics from Krantz. The bassist grooves mightily with Chambers' locomotive funkpower on the muscular romp "Knee Jerk Reaction," then the same rhythm tandem turns around and displays ultimate finesse on the gentle piano trio number "Baby Talk," with Victor affecting a warm upright sound while Chambers underscores the acoustic vibe with sensitive brushwork. Bailey acknowledges a childhood hero on "Graham Cracker," his homage to the king of slap bass, Larry Graham, and he showcases super chops on the burning Brazilian-flavored closer "Brain Teaser," with Chambers again setting the frenzied pace with his inimitable supercharged pulse.
There is a ton of impressive playing by all the participants on this powerful session, but by far the most outstanding and inspired track is Bailey's heartfelt interpretation of Pastorius' "Continuum." Not only does the bassist capture the essence of this very moving Jaco signature piece but he also adapts autobiographical lyrics ("Do You Know Him," which he originally wrote in 1977 at the age of 16) to a transcription of Pastorius' original solo from his 1976 solo debut recording. This ambitious bit of vocalese, sung with surprising range, rhythmic fluency and passionate abandon by Bailey, rates with the works of vocalese masters King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson, and Jon Hendricks. And, of course, it is bound to tug at the heartstrings of electric bass players everywhere. Beautiful, personal, revealing testimony from one bass hero to another.