Most major American cities (and, for that matter, most European ones) contain a jazz musician who is the default bassist of record. You run into them all over town, in all manner of ensembles, kicking ass and taking names.
In Seattle, Wash., it is Chuck Deardorf. He is known for making other people sound good, not leading his own projects. But transparence argues that he is also a strong and smart bandleader. Deardorf blends various configurations of 14 musicians and combines sessions recorded in several places over three years into a coherent album statement with continuity of tone. It is no mean trick. His own voice is the primary unifying factor. He is a quick, clear rhythm-section player and an articulate, interesting soloist on all of his instruments: acoustic, Toucan and Fender fretless basses and acoustic bass guitar.
The roster of 14 includes strong players from Seattle (alto saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist Jovino Santos Neto, tenor saxophonist Richard Cole) and elsewhere (pianist Bill Mays, guitarists Bruce Foreman and Rick Peckham). Most of the ensembles are duos, trios or quartets, and there is a string bias. (Four different guitarists interact with Deardorf’s basses.) On “Alone Together,” Forman’s electric guitar and Deardorf’s acoustic bass create resonant blends and suggestive contrasts. The same instrumental combination, with Rick Peckham on guitar, portrays Jobim’s gentle “Zingaro” as something edgy and twangy.
Deardorf makes inspired song choices like “The Peacocks.” The version here is one of the permanent recordings of Jimmy Rowles’ atmospheric masterpiece. Deardorf and Mays and Teuber allow the song to keep its secrets. Together and apart, they just beautifully float with it.