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Mark Egan: As We Speak

This intimate trio venture was in part inspired by the interplay of the Gateway trio featuring John Abercrombie, Dave Holland (Egan’s one-time teacher) and Jack DeJohnette. So for this two-CD set on Egan’s own label, the bassist recruited Abercrombie and drummer Danny Gottlieb, his playmate for over 35 years, from early Pat Metheny to the still-active Elements.

The deep and resonant sound of Egan’s fretless electric bass (Jaco Pastorious was another early teacher) is beautifully recorded, and his upfront statements of many of the themes-as well as his solos-are exquisite aural delights. Egan contributed 11 originals of varied mood and texture, while Abercrombie’s four compositions are freer and more open-ended. The standard “Alone Together” completes the program.

“Spirals” has a hypnotic, oscillating melody and a lucid, crystal-toned Abercrombie solo. “Mississippi Nights” is a tranquil, lyrical blues-tinged piece featuring an emphatic, inventive Egan solo. Egan offers an evocative reading of his ballad, “Your Sweet Way,” with Abercrombie probing the theme brilliantly. Egan’s throbbing, supportive bass lines behind the guitarist’s inventive improvisation on “As We Speak” are a highlight, as is Gottlieb’s own masterfully played statement. “Three-Way Mirror,” an old Egan tune from an early Elements recording, contains among the best of Egan’s and Abercrombie’s solos, with Gottlieb’s relentless drive urging them on. The pleasing “Tone Poem for My Father” has a meditative, stair-stepping theme. The subdued “Shade and Shadows,” the quirky, engaging and sometimes rollicking “Depraw,” and the plaintive, Coltrane-like ballad “Plane to the Trane” are other memorable selections.

Egan, Abercrombie and Gottlieb are all on top of their game here, and display great rapport. As We Speak is one of the gems of Egan’s discography.

Originally Published