It takes a lot more than solid musicianship to flow comfortably in the postmodern chordless trio format; shared experiences, memories, understanding, and chemistry are involved too. In the case of Clark Sommers’ Ba(SH), a trio binding the bassist to saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall, all the right boxes are checked off. These Windy City wonders have been performing together in various outfits for more than two decades and, as a result of their past encounters and strong rapport, communication and synergy guide their every move.
Any song chosen at random from Peninsula—the band’s sophomore album, following its self-titled 2013 debut—can make the aforementioned case. Take the opener, “High Tide.” It sells itself as a straight-time vehicle, with Hall’s steady stick work and Sommers’ stout lines holding it all together. But with ramp-ups in energy, extreme flexibility regarding the rules of engagement, and a character change for the final stretch, it’s anything but predictable. The same goes for the closer, “Disambiguation.” While the song plays to its name, with an emphasis on clarity, there’s still surprise in the way Ba(SH) uses a punchy and dynamic head to bookend a more streamlined swing core.
The music in between those poles shows that the band’s umbrella sensibility covers plenty of aesthetic ground. “Morning Bell” deals in pure mystique, the high-octane “Goes Around” drives on and off the rails in style, and “Maybe Never” gives room to admire Bradfield’s melodic arcs and the way his bandmates support their evolution. A promontory jutting into the waters of possibility, this particular Peninsula is a truly valuable piece of land.