Matt Brewer - Ganymede

Label: Criss Cross Records, 2019

Personnel - Mark Shim: tenor saxophone; Matt Brewer: bass; Damion Reid: drums.


First-call bassist Matt Brewer has a new outing on the Criss Cross label as a leader. It’s called Ganymede and features ten compositions, four of which he penned with an insightful perspective. On his former releases, he approached the sextet and quintet formats, but now he convenes a robust trio with Mark Shim on tenor saxophone and Damion Reid on drums.

As mentioned above, Brewer’s originals are extremely interesting with the elegant title track opening the album in a quiet mode and then transitioning to a rhythmically daring strut. The bassist’s agility is impressive and Shim’s fiery attacks are fully supported by the stout, darkening timbre of his instrument. Reid, unceasingly dynamic and responsive, undertakes a hard stomp by the end and I really dig the silent gap between his solo and the reintegration of the theme. With heftiness as a constant variable, “Triton” engages in playful unisons that eventually split up into complementary fragmented phrases. “Io” ekes out a sort of modal, rock-inflected vibe with epic tones, over which Shim speaks authority and infuse his raw, jagged language. In turn, “Psalm” is set in motion by a nearly two-minute bass solo before bringing melody to the center with a 4/4 rocking pulse running underneath. Freedom exaltation is everywhere.

Shim contributes “Don’t Wake the Violent Baby” to the setlist, but it’s on Joe Henderson’s “Afro-Centric” that we feel pure energy coming out of his fleet arpeggios, intricate phrases, and sharp pinpoints. It’s a great piece with fabulous chromatic movements to be enjoyed.

An additional array of inspirations ended up in rapturous renditions of post-bop and avant-garde tunes, including Ron Carter’s “R.J.”, which was popularized by Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis and here burns in a fervent swinging motion, Ornette Coleman’s elated “Eos”, a showcase for the bandleader, and Dewey Redman-penned “Willisee”, a hell-bent free-bop that ramps up the temperature with some blazing Mark Shim on tenor. After the storm, nothing better than a gentle standard to appease the rugged textures and the haunting melody of “When Sunny Gets Blue” vouches for that.

You’ll find a lot of provocative sounds here. Whether if the trio is swinging or rocking, they act completely natural in these environments.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Ganymede ► 05 - Afro Centric ► 06 - Io