Sam Bates Trio
MELBOURNE drummer and composer Sam Bates’s trio released its debut album, Singularity, in 2010 and has now recorded this follow-up. Bates’s prolific compositions confirm an observation by US trumpeter Clark Terry that “most — not just many — drummers play piano”. Bates couldn’t ask for two better interpreters of his music than outstanding bassist Philip Rex and pianist Marc Hannaford. While the style here is contemporary jazz and there is plenty of solo work, a pulse, often a hard-driving one, is always present so that the music never strays into arrhythmic abstraction. A strong rapport between the players is evident, giving the trio solid internal cohesion. The slow tempo and stepped repetition of Make It Stop are combined with a profound harmonic structure, used in all of Bates’s pieces, which Hannaford exploits beautifully in his thoughtful solo while the kit fizzes and punctuates. The opener, He Who
Laughs, opens with spacey chords and a catchy theme as bass and drums smartly underscore and the piano begins a racing improvisation leading into a highly charged drum solo. A lopsided drumbeat introduces Rat Rescue for the piano’s bass end quirky theme, while
Seaworthy uses Rex’s bass for the same purpose and later the bass adds its solo voice building to hyper-fast phrases. For its interesting melodies, accomplished trio playing and impressive flights of improvisation, this album is a worthy addition to Australian contemporary jazz.