Michael Bates’ Outside Sources

A Fine Balance
Between the Lines BTLCHR 71211

Prime believer in the DIY-ethos, New York-based (since 2002), British Columbia-born bassist Michael Bates composed 10 memorable themes for himself and three fellow Canucks for this debut CD. Singly and together they confirm that Bates has a mature control of various idioms, whether the influences come from mainstream jazz, advanced free improvisation or Prokofiev.

A deconstruction of the Russian composer’s “Cello Sonata in C major”, that track features Bates’ clean arco work; brassy fills from trumpeter Kevin Turcotte; a quasi-martial beat from drummer Mark Timmermans; and harsh, contrapuntal overblowing from tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff.

Elsewhere the saxophonist’s stuttering split tones and wind tunnel-like slurred notes make perfect harmonic sense playing off against the trumpeter’s brassy rubato style. Together they enhance Bates’ often slinky and layered themes. As well as funky stop-time showcases, the bassist – who lopes pizzicato lines as craftily as he modulates arco fills – also creates pastoral interludes, personified by Nachoff’s lyrical, clarinet. Some tunes reflect both strands.

Episodic and showcasing different tempos and intensity, “Coppertone” for instance, moves from florid flourishes advanced by Turcotte to chromatic honking and flattement from the saxophonist. Including a fleeting Thelonious Monk quote, the penultimate section gives the drummer space to trade fours with the others.

By the time the almost nine-minute-track ends, it confirms the bassist’s fine balance and ability to create multi-thematic compositions. The listener can only lament that Bates is another example of Canadian brain drain – improvised music division.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #2