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John Patitucci: Now

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John Patitucci’s second album since moving back to New York features some heavy hitters in ace drummer Bill Stewart, guitarist John Scofield and tenor saxophonists Chris Potter and Michael Brecker. The overall mood of Patitucci’s compositions is greatly informed by Stewart’s loose, interactive approach to the kit. Whether he’s providing a surging pulse on aggressive swingers like the opening title track, cutting up the beat in idiosyncratic ways as on “Grace” and “Forgotten but Not Gone” or creatively coloring the groove from bar to bar with hip time displacement and counter rhythms as on “Out of the Mouths Of Babes,” Stewart tweaks the proceedings in signature fashion. And these monster players respond with some brilliant solos.

Potter acquits himself nicely on the two uptempo burners, “Now” and “Espresso,” and on the loping blues “Forgotten but Not Gone,” all of which recall Scofield’s former band with Stewart, Dennis Irwin and Joe Lovano. Brecker appears on two tracks, offering urgent, searching statements on the hauntingly delicate “Hope,” which is underscored by Stewart’s zen-like use of brushes and mallets, and bearing down with gritty abandon on “Labor Day.” Patitucci himself digs in just a little deeper on this funky vehicle, hooking up with Bill’s insinuating, laid back shuffle groove before launching into a blues-drenched solo of his own. Scofield’s nasty comping and wicked, bent-string soloing here comes directly from his encounter with Medeski, Martin & Wood on A Go Go. He also engages Brecker in some playfully ‘out’ exchanges at the tag.

Patitucci showcases his inimitable upright chops on “Espresso,” then applies a lyrical touch to 6-string electric on McCoy Tyner’s fragile ballad “Search for Peace.” The bassist takes an unusually deliberate approach on “Giant Steps,” playing the melody on six-string in duet with Stewart before busting loose with an astonishing extrapolation on that familiar set of cascading chord changes.

The collection closes on a melancholy note with “Miya,” a solo chordal bass showcase performed on 6-string electric and named for a child lost in stillbirth.

Patitucci’s playing and composing has opened up considerably from his solo debut 11 years ago. And this one is his finest offering to date.