The Chicago triumvirate conflates the initials of its members--reedist Geof Bradfield, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall--adding an extra lower case vowel (and parentheses) for onomatopoeic effect. The name represents the trio's chamber aesthetic "sh" and sporadic aggressiveness: "bash." Though it might also suggest the bashfulness of Sommers, who became the effectual leader after writing for the trio and organizing the recording. In the CD's incisive liner notes, Dennis Carroll recalls Sommers' "agonizing intensity" when he first met him--certainly, modesty undersells his talent. Possessed of a massive, tensile sound--well captured by recording engineer Scott Steinman--Sommers makes emphatic musical decisions and is responsible for writing five of the ten compositions--with three more from Bradfield, plus Thelonious Monk's "Think of One" and Billy Higgins' "Inga."
Clarity of purpose is a Hall hallmark, too, although he can also be incendiary and unpredictable, investing everything--even shouts of excitement--on the opener "Garrison." A nod to Jimmy Garrison, the driving pulse behind John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, the song takes after the bassist's proactive, sometimes guitaristic style, which is audible in Sommer's anchored strumming, while Hall's chivvying, plosive polyrhythms echo Elvin Jones.
Bradfield has always been a sturdy Chicago saxophonist, but his 2008 record Urban Nomad
(Origin) with Sommers gave further notice of his exceptional talent. A controlled, non-gratuitous player, the rich variation and technical acuity in his playing can be overlooked, but not by Hall and Sommers. They assist his brilliant surf-ride on the stop-start "Quanah." Bradfield's soprano curlicues over click-clack rimshots and spartan bass on "On Meditation" is an unforced delight. All told: Ba(SH)
is a collective, uber-musical sound painting.