By Bradley Bambarger | Published March 2017
Trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway have been playing together since an impromptu gig in 1977. The Long Road, a double-disc released via Hemingway’s label, celebrates their 40th anniversary as the trio they eventually dubbed BassDrumBone. Ranging from funky blues to the carnivalesque, the album showcases the group at its best, particularly when in league with saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Jason Moran, who guest on three tracks each.
Sounding like the score to an old vaudeville revue, Anderson’s “Oh Yeah” serves as a flag-waving trio opener. The trombonist has a naturally expressive sound—brassy but singing, with such a font of ideas that he rarely resorts to excessive bleating and blurting. In his indigo-hued tune “BluRay,” he blends wonderfully with Lovano, who also gets in an expansive, dynamic solo. Helias owns a rich tone bolstered by ideal intonation; his earthy riffs on “Why Not?”—the album’s Anderson-penned hit single, as it were—are the tune’s addictive hook, with Moran supplying a solo that dances in the air. Hemingway’s “Tone L” is a great noirish number, featuring melody-laced Anderson soloing complemented by Moran lines that glint like moonlight in a mirror.
As a coda to 11 new studio tracks, two live recordings from 2013 find the core BassDrumBone stretching out on vintage pieces, the performances brimming with a telepathy indicative of the threesome’s long journey as kindred spirits.
The Long Road: Disc One: Oh Yeah; Bungle Low; BluRay; Kemp; Why Not?; Quomput; Tone L; At Another Time (50:53). Disc Two: Bluish; Different Cities; Cherry Pickin’; The Line Up; Land’s End (49:59).
Personnel: Ray Anderson, trombone; Mark Helias, bass; Gerry Hemingway, drums; Jason Moran, piano (Disc One, tracks 2, 5, 7); Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone (Disc One, track 3; Disc Two, tracks 1, 3).