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Mark Egan/Karl Latham/John Hart: Unit 1

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Not that fans who’ve been following bassist Mark Egan’s long and remarkable career need reminding, but this leaderless ensemble’s recording debut is yet another illustration of just how well versed he is in the art of the electric trio.

While flashes of similarities to Egan’s work in like settings are inevitable, the performances captured on Unit 1 swiftly reveal a distinctive brand of jazz-funk propulsion and interplay, a match of wits featuring drummer Karl Latham and guitarist John Hart in equally prominent roles. Several jazz and pop standards, including tunes by Thelonious Monk, Ann Ronell, Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins, provide grist for the trio’s willfully out-of-kilter mill.

It’s a power-trio-generator, all right, but what often stands out amid the 16th-note rhythms, spiky harmonies and syncopated drive is a keen sense of dynamics, especially when the focus shifts to Hart’s feather-light phrasing, Latham’s deft brushwork and Egan’s fretless bass finesse. Although improvisation is the album’s primary thrust, with most of the tracks running between six and nine minutes, melodies linger and charm during “Old Folks,” “Willow Weep for Me” and “My One and Only Love.” What’s more, Hart’s sheer soulfulness and unmistakable blues affinity subtly complement Egan’s rippling undercurrents and Latham’s deep grooves.

Well worth the wait, Unit 1 was recorded five years ago at the club Bula in Newton, N.J. Here’s hoping Egan, Latham and Hart offer an update soon-in or out of the studio.

Originally Published