BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Bassist Larry Grenadier has been a first-call sideman for a quarter of a century, playing alongside Paul Motian, Pat Metheny, Wolfgang Muthspiel and, in one of the most organic and longest tenures in jazz, Brad Mehldau. For his first solo album, however, Grenadier swings his upright solo, without a bandmate in sight.
Locating a groove and working his way around it, the bassist swings hard on the thrumming “Pettiford” (in tribute to Oscar Pettiford, one of his heroes) and waxes subtly funky on “Woebegone.” He goes for melodic effect on “Gone Like the Season Does,” written by his singer wife Rebecca Martin,” and his own “Lovelair.” The bassist does some of his best work arco, employing his bow for the luminously beautiful “The Gleaner” and the rocking “Vineland.” He puts arco and pizzicato variations on the same tune with the two-part “Bagatelle,” a brief nugget written especially for him by sometime bandmate Wolfgang Muthspiel. He takes a similar tack on Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now,” beginning with some surprisingly aggressive bow work before shifting to a groovy pluck. Grenadier’s bold medley of John Coltrane’s “Compassion” and his old employer Paul Motian’s “The Owl of Cranston” runs the gamut, from haunting arco to busy sawing to bluesy plucking, encompassing all of its performer’s skill, taste and vision in one epic number.
Throughout the record, Grenadier sticks closely to the melody and rhythm, using his considerable prowess to embellish the songs, rather than burst into fleet-fingered soloing. There’s a long tradition of solo bass records, with notable takes from Grenadier’s ECM labelmates Dave Holland and Barre Phillips, among others. A master class in the balance of musical mood settings and technical wizardry, The Gleaners can proudly take its place beside them.
DOWNLOAD: “Vineland,” “Compassion/The Owl of Cranston,” “Woebegone”