Rodney Whitaker: When We Find Ourselves Alone

Rodney Whitaker’s ubiquity as a utility man-regular stints with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Roy Hargrove, director of the Mack Avenue Superband, high-profile recording dates with the likes of Orrin Evans and Cécile McLorin Salvant-may have, until now, obscured the Detroit bassist’s consistently admirable recordings as a leader. When We Find Ourselves Alone is his seventh since 1996, including a shared pair with drummer Carl Allen, and it’s arguably his finest.

Credit for that goes in large part to the solid support crew Whitaker has assembled here. Gregory Hutchinson is an ideal partner on drums: diligent and dynamic but never overly fussy on the uptempo numbers, judicious and delicate when things slow down. Pianist Bruce Barth (with whom Whitaker worked in Terence Blanchard’s band) and alto/soprano saxophonist Antonio Hart (both he and Hutchinson familiar to Whitaker from their shared Hargrove association) give Whitaker plenty of groove and texture to work with throughout.

On five Whitaker originals and six smartly chosen, diverse interpretations-among the latter a steamy, bop-ified “Autumn Leaves,” a soulful “Mr. Magic” and a fired-up reading of Oscar Brown’s (via Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln) “Freedom Day,” all featuring Whitaker’s daughter Rockelle Fortin’s vocalizing-the unity of the group’s vision is demonstrable. Whitaker’s own tunes come off as every bit the equals of the covers. On “When You Played With Roy” (meaning Hargrove), Whitaker and Hutchinson dance around each other playfully, while the easy-rolling title track breaks in tentatively before opening up wide enough for each player to drive a truck through.

Originally Published