The subliminal empathy shared by bassist Scott Colley, saxophonist Chris Potter, and drummer Bill Stewart is masterfully illustrated on Colley's latest album, This Place. Colley's tutelage with Charlie Haden clearly informs his knack for developing warm, simpatico lines that are nearly always melodically astute yet never showy. On originals like his hypnotic title track, Colley can create a simple bass figure that grounds and propels the gorgeous melodies of Potter and the textural and rhythmic splendor of Stewart. Colley's most sensual performance on this date, however, is his haunting "Long Lake," where he delivers a heartfelt counter melody beneath Potter's raspy tenor and Stewart's shimmering brushes.
Much of This Place gently nudges toward the avant-garde without giving way to the noisy antics associated with it. The stark arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty" features Potter's bass clarinet and Colley's ghostly improvising on the melody, which he does with an obliqueness that suggests '70s loft jazz. Colley's rambling original "Simultaneity" provides the record's most suspenseful moments, as Potter's twisting tenor zigzags against Colley's prowling bass lines.
Devoid of any grandiose ambition or ego-driven solos, This Place succeeds at illustrating Colley's remarkable talents as a bassist and composer.