Gary Willis: Bent

Continuing on his recently forged solo path apart from long-time collaborator Scott Henderson, fretless bass master Willis surrounds himself with the likes of keyboardist Scott Kinsey, drummersDennis Chambers and Kirk Covington, and saxophonists Steve Tavaglione and Bob Berg. The title track more or less sums up the album’s philosophy, a marriage of funky grooves, intriguing sonic environments, and expert blowing that ranges from straight ahead to eccentric.

The bristling “Armageddon Blues” is anchored by a churning bass line, which supports highly precise ensemble work featuring Kinsey and Berg, who eventually launches into an extended, serpentine tenor outing. In contrast, “It’s Only Music” provides a relatively conventional forum for a grooving Kinsey solo, while “Before Your Eyes” is a gorgeous, free flowing duet between Kinsey on electronic keyboard and Tavaglione on soprano. The set concludes with the simmering “Emancipation,” with some rippling bass work by Willis and grooving interplay between all concerned. In writing all of the disc’s tunes, Willis demonstrates that he’s a composer to be reckoned with, in addition to being, arguably, the foremost fretless player going.