The quiet and easygoing togetherness of bassist Ron McClure’s Soft Hands, with tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and pianist George Colligan, will find listeners overlooking the absence of a drummer. Much of the fire and sizzle provided by a drummer is replaced by a depth of artistic purpose and mellow resolve fed by each of these players, particularly Colligan, whose lyrical angularity brings a different sort of heat, as well as Perry’s laid-back and controlled assurance.
Leader McClure writes in his liner notes about the difficulty of filling the gaps left as a result of not having a drummer. While he refers only to his involvement, Perry and Colligan also contribute mightily to covering those rhythmic spaces. McClure and Colligan are involved in virtually every moment on the album, of course, with Perry the only one given an occasional break on each track due to the nature of his role.
The music flows in a fairly conventional fashion through most of this CD’s collection of mid-tempo and ballad tracks, but occasionally—as on “Fortune Gardens,” “I Never Knew,” the title track and “Gates of Saffron”—the trio achieves a collective weaving of lines that is memorable, each player feeding off the ideas of the others. And thus it becomes music of contemplative communion.
Colligan’s work on this recording is an indication of how his distinctive stylings have been somewhat overlooked. And Perry remains a model of restrained power and clarity. McClure’s place in all of this remains largely supportive—although his solos are first-rate—because of the sax and piano by their very nature being out front. Of course, this is all McClure’s music whether he’s in the spotlight or not, and that should be enough.
The title gets it right—Soft Hands indeed.