Anson Wright has assembled a remarkable group of artists to complete his quartet for recording his latest album Only Love. With the exception of bassist Brian Casey, they represent the finest in the Portland music scene. And what a scene it is.
Guitarist, composer, poet, teacher, author Anson Wright leads the group and seven of the nine tracks on Only Love are his originals. On piano is one of my favorite pianists and composers in the world, also from the Portland area via Brasil, is Jasnam Daya Singh. Drummer Tom Scott Bishop is a brilliant artist and has released fine albums under his own leadership. Brian Casey is an extraordinary bassist and fits so very well within this particular quartet.
Wright opens the splendid album with Rahway Blues, one of his original compositions. It opens with a cool swing and the song introduces all the players admirably. Wright and the band take their parts with steady diligence. An excellent introduction.
Maddie in New York, another Wright original, follows with a cymbal opening from Bishop who expands into a full kit solo before being joined by guitar, piano, and bass. Wright’s guitar work is expressive and is paired beautifully with Jasnam, who never ever falters. Jasnam’s piano solo beautifully sets up Casey’s dynamic bass interlude. The band takes up a cool 8-note motif before the close. Good stuff.
Wright’s Solstice is a Jazz tone poem that shows off that great partnership of Wright and Jasnam. The trades are well-placed and well-played while Casey and Bishop work their magic from beneath. Wright’s delicate touches provide a fine counterpart to Casey’s bass lines.
Chelsea comes next with an ethereal approach from Wright on this, his original composition. The mood is reflective and delicate. Leads by Wright and Jasnam are exquisitely done and Casey offers a smooth bass solo. A fine piece, beautifully done.
Inner Motion sounds like the soundtrack to a cool spy movie. Jasnam is at his strident best as Wright hits precise pinpoints that are both cool and forward moving. Casey and Bishop propel the song forward with deliberate rhythm that remains melodic. The 1-2/1-2/1-2-3 motif is catchy and keeps your attention.
Merci Mon Frére is Jasnam’s first composition of the album. Lyrical and melodic, the guitar and piano are in perfect agreement. Jasnam’s compositions are forever touching and emotional. At least, for me. Casey and Bishop enhance the movement of the piece remarkably, accenting without crowding. And that may be the strength of this quartet—that they make space for one another and their contributions are always appropriate.
Warrior One is Wright’s piece with a more straightforward approach, more declarative than insinuating. The quartet all get their licks in and nothing is left unsaid. Wright’s lead moments are stellar and Jasnam’s piano is gorgeous.
Jasnam’s second and final composition is All Shall Rise to Thee. The piece is melodic and meditative, reflective and rarified with its understated beauty and movement. The back and forth of guitar and piano echo a dialogue with the Divine, a call and response of love and awe. It is a spiritual reflection that evokes images of beauty and wonder. Stunning.
The album closes with the title track, Only Love. As with the opening of the album, the closing offers the quartet a chance to bid farewell. Wright’s lead is a thing of beauty and Jasnam’s support is moving and fascinating, then his solo takes off on cool runs as Casey and Bishop provide fascinating rhythms. An excellent end to a brilliant album.
Anson Wright’s Only Love is a wonderful album of stellar compositions with first-class artists who know how to deliver on Wright’s vision for the music. Beautiful compositions, beautifully performed.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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