Over the past decade Clark Sommers has emerged as one of Chicago's finest bassists, lending myriad bands an agile but hefty center of gravity and a muscular, propulsive kick. For his first recording under his own name, he leads a trio with drummer Dana Hall and reedist Geof Bradfield, two players who've worked with him on and off in many settings over the years. In the liner notes for the new Ba(SH) (Origin), Chicago bassist Dennis Carroll describes how the three of them developed their relationship slowly and casually, watching one another perform at Pete Miller's Steakhouse in Evanston and shooting the shit during breaks. These days Sommers is a fixture in bands led by Bradfield and Hall, but under the bassist's baton they can let rip in a way they rarely do in their own projects. From the very first track, the Sommers original "Garrison"--named for no-nonsense bassist Jimmy Garrison, who played with the likes of John Coltrane and Jimmy Giuffre--the music is refreshingly pared-down and direct, but the absence of complicated arrangements doesn't leave the players starved for material to work with they improvise. Sommers does so sparingly but meaningfully--on the melodic midtempo number "Quanah," for instance, he takes a short, knotty solo that quickly builds in weight and tension, opening the gates for Bradfield to deliver one of many knockout improvisations. In fact Ba(SH) showcases some of the hottest, most expressive playing I've heard from Bradfield, and he contributes a few tunes too; "Fathom-a-Ning" borrows some rhythmic strains from Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning," but its changes are based on "How Deep Is the Ocean" rather than "I Got Rhythm." Throughout the record Hall works beautifully with Sommers, swinging ferociously and driving the music with explosive accents--not even the biggest rhythmic bombs he drops can disrupt its forward motion.