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Billy Mohler: Anatomy (Contagious)

A review of the second album from the bassist-led quartet

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Billy Mohler: Anatomy (Contagious)
The cover of Anatomy by Billy Mohler

Prolific bass player Billy Mohler enjoys the best of two disparate worlds. In one, the L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist is a Grammy-nominated sessioneer who’s played with Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, and Mavis Staples. In the other, he’s a driving force and ubiquitous presence in Los Angeles’ burgeoning jazz and improvised-music realms. It’s the latter in which Mohler steps out of the shadows and shines as bandleader.

Anatomy, his quartet’s sophomore effort, reinforces Mohler as a virtuoso whose beefy, relentlessly melodic lines serve as the throbbing heartbeat to his stellar tunes, which are built on in-studio spontaneity. That’s a testament to Mohler, trumpeter Shane Endsley, drummer Nate Wood, and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed’s fluid rapport. “The rehearsal take was the take,” Mohler says in the press material; you’d never know that from listening to infectious tracks such as “Fight Song” and “Speed Kills,” which channels Ornette Coleman’s quartet with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell.  

Like a cross between Wilbur Ware and Tim Lefebvre (both admitted influences), Mohler is both anchor and linchpin, his booming pulsations constantly in forward motion throughout the album’s 10 hard-charging tunes. His strength also lies in his ability to let his bandmates have free rein—and boy, do they shine in this setting. With Mohler and Wood holding down the groove, Endsley and Speed provide thrilling solos and harmonically transcendent interplay on foot-tapping standouts like “Nightfall,” “Equals,” and “Perseverance.” Exuberant and effortless, Billy Mohler’s Anatomy portends a bassist and leader on the rise.

Learn more about Anatomy on Apple Music.