A superbly versatile bass player, Scott Colley's wealth of experience is drawn from having played with the biggest names in the jazz scene - Michael Brecker and Herbie Hancock to name but two - and he's successfully building a solid reputation for himself as a leader. The man's boundless curiosity and technical mastery are present throughout Empire.
The album shows elements of continuity from his previous release, Architect of the Silent Moment, not only in terms of personnel (trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Craig Taborn are again called upon) but also for the style and overall mood. Bill Frisell's guitar contributions complement Colley's predilection for melodic soundscapes, which often brim with folk and country references. The move from Antonio Sanchez (on Architect…) to Brian Blade suggests the bass player's appreciation of drummers with a pristine use of dynamics and unique attention to sound.
Empire follows a somewhat irregular narrative, opening with a voluminous display of touching chords, longing landscapes, unbounded drumming, scattered or more muscular insertions; at the very beginning electric Miles may come to mind. After such an explosive start, from the fifth track onwards the album settles down into a coda of pensive ballads and gentler, progressively more nocturnal tunes, where the alternation of Taborn and Frisell introduces two different moods (although it's Frisell's imaginative openness and melodic elegance, both homely and melancholic, which mostly prevails). On the other hand, Alessi provides the thread of continuity throughout, his wonderfully round tone and flawless technique apparent.
Colley's writing is superb. As in Architect…, he favours composite rhythms and a matching appetite for tonal exploration, striking a beautiful balance. Gut features a beat that constantly moves forward and leaves you wondering if time itself has been warped, a feeling deepened by Alessi's intense display on the trumpet.
Tagging along on his rhythmical discourse is an exciting, never predictable journey, and definitely never a soulless one. Colley is engaging, propelling the action forward with a relentless sense of swing, and Empire is excellent.
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