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

Matt Brewer - Unspoken

Ben Wendel: sax; Aaron Parks: piano; Charles Altura: guitar; Matt Brewer: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.


Matt Brewer is a bassist of modern touch and ample musical vision, who had his first appearance as a leader two years ago with Mythology. The album was recorded with a sextet whose front line included Mark Turner and Steve Lehman. 
For his sophomore album, Unspoken, Brewer convenes a completely different band, a tight quintet that fits his call in order to find the best shape for his bold compositions.

Juno” is a great starting point. Ben Wendel and Charles Altura delineate the melody through a catchy unison while the sensitive chords of Aaron Parks echo in the background. The guitarist then embarks on an improvisational journey, displaying his attractive sound, which softly flows over the rhythmical structure pictured by Brewer and Tyshawn Sorey. 

In the title track, a circumspective lullaby, saxophonist and guitarist team up once again, intertwining improvisations, after Brewer had claimed his time.
The quintet’s interaction is outstanding in the half-dreamy, half-imperial “Twenty Years”, a poignant composition by Bill Frisell, in which Wendel’s saxophone implores for mercy while a breezy creativity warms the air. 

With a persuasive bass introduction, “Lunar” is my favorite piece of the record. Rolling at a charming rhythm fueled by Sorey’s mordant chops, we are given the pleasure of listening to Park’s intelligent comping and cultivated improvisation in addition to Wendel’s melodic metaphors.

The concise “Evil Song” is a great tune, marching flawlessly with ominous tones toward an uncertain destiny. It precedes Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl”, the second and last cover on the recording. Early improvisations fire up this capricious tune imbued of ebullient swing.

Brewer finishes the recording by entering in cool mode through the stylishly pop clouds of “Tesuque”. The fluency and consistency of the piano-bass-drums activity invite Wendel to another round of enthusiastic blows.

The undeniable compositional qualities of Matt Brewer are magnified through the special rapport that surrounds this quintet.
Unspoken is the bassist’s most ambitious album and arrives with an assortment of tactful collective and individual moments.

        Grade  A-

        Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
04 – Lunar ► 05 – Evil Song ► 09 – Tesuque