Bassist Martin Wind‘s new album Air with his New York Bass Quartet – streaming at Bandcamp – is sublimely ridiculous fun for those of us who gravitate to the low registers. Like most members of the four-string fraternity, Wind and his accomplices – Gregg August, Jordan Frazier and Sam Suggs – are heartily aware of the comedic possibilities that abound in the F clef. Yet Wind’s arrangements here are as erudite as they are irresistibly amusing. As party music, this is pretty hard to beat. And to Wind’s further credit, he uses pretty much the entirety of his axe’s sonic capability – there are places where these guys sound like a cello rock band or even a string quartet.
They open with a sotto-voce, tiptoeing four-bass arrangement that sticks pretty close to a famous Bach piece that a psychedelic group from the 1960s ripped off for the most-played radio single in British history. Then Wind and his merry band make low-register bluegrass out of it – and guest Gary Versace comes in on organ as the group pivot to a lowdown funk groove. The solo, of course, is for bass – that’s August doing the tongue-in-cheek pirouette.
The third track, a Beatles medley that starts with Long and Winding Road and continues with an emphasis on the chamber pop side of the Fab Four, is even funnier, considering how artfully Wind weaves the individual themes together.
They do Birdland as a clave tune, and then as funk, with Lenny White on drums and Versace on organ again: again, no spoilers. Matt Wilson’s suspenseful tom-toms and Versace’s misterioso organ simmer beneath a surprising plaintiveness and judicious solos all around in an epic arrangement of Charlie Haden’s Silence.
Wind’s first original here, I’d Rather Eat is a hypnotic, rhythmically pulsing, judiciously contrapuntal piece that brings to mind cellist Julia Kent’s more insistently minimalist work. The group’s gorgeously bittersweet take of Pat Metheny’s Tell Her You Saw Me has the bassists plucking out piano voicings, plus Versace on piano and accordion.
Wind’s other tune here, Iceland Romance is a tango with surprising poignancy but also several good jokes, They bring the album full circle by revisiting Procol Harum – woops, Bach. Whether you call this classical music, or the avant garde, or jazz, it’s an awful lot of fun.
Wind’s next gig is with Wilson’s great Honey and Salt quintet at the Saratoga Jazz Festival on June 25. And Verrsace is leading a trio, from the piano, at Mezzrow on June 15 with sets at 7:30 and 9. Cover is $25 cash at the door.