It’s no surprise that Greenleaf label owner Dave Douglas likes what he hears in the young bassist/composer Michael Bates, a musician who, like Douglas himself, evidences multifarious musical interests. From the Stravinsky-esque “Great Exhibition” to the freebop/funk convolution that is “Damasa”; from the circuslike “Fellini” (which seems to sonically approximate a first-class trapeze act) to the deceptively simple “Lighthousekeeping” (wherein he adopts a beat-displacing technique not unlike the one Monk used for “Evidence”), Bates covers a lot of ground.
He’s not the kind of writer who has a single definable style. Rather, he possesses monster chops, which he’s inclined to exercise in disparate ways. It’s to his credit that he’s internalized so many influences so successfully. The band—Russ Johnson, trumpet; Quinson Nachoff, saxophone and clarinet; Jeff Davis, drums; Bates, bass—realizes the highly complex tunes remarkably well. The ensembles are as tight as the painstakingly crafted tunes require. Both Johnson and Nachoff solo inventively over the vague harmonic constructs, pushed by a rhythm section that often plays with suitably (that is to say, barely) constrained turbulence. Clockwise is bursting with ideas, most of them quite good.