It was going to be interesting to see how the Todd Bishop Group emerged from their excellent 2012 release, Little Played, Little Bird
. An album that covered obscure Ornette Coleman tunes, Bishop and company spoke to the heart of the Coleman originals without trying to out-free the free jazz artist. While there was no mistaking the inspiration of those tunes, Bishop gave the music his own voice; a voice that situates itself pretty squarely in the modern post-bop sound. Bishop returns with that sound on his newest recording, Travelogue, and, intriguingly if not expected, his sound remains remarkably consistent.
Shouldering the potent combo of being a fan and recording an album of Coleman music, it would have been excusable had some of the Ornette Coleman catalog bled into Bishop's newest recording. But then again, this is someone who has also tackled the songs of both Don Cherry and Serge Gainsbourg, so perhaps we have a situation where an artist is spreading out their influences sufficiently to allow their own personal voice to congeal within the midst of it all.
Most tracks keep within reach of a modern straight-ahead sound. Opening track "Moving" has a pleasant rhythmic bounce, briskly stated, with saxophonist Cole and pianist Iago taking it in nice and casual over the top. The melody is clean and simple and gets referred to at satisfying intervals. Subsequent track "Far and Awake" slows it down a bit, but charts a similar course to that of its predecessor. "Ventimiglia" is upbeat from the start, and spaces things out so that everyone gets in a good solo.
A few tracks stray further away from modern jazz center than others, and these tend to be the stronger album tracks, courtesy of Richard Cole switching to bass clarinet and baritone sax. On "Rover," Cole's light dose of thrash & stomp bookends either end of some nice work in the upper registers by bassist Higgins, who benefits from some tasteful accompaniment by pianist Iago. With "Norwegian," the quartet smolders moodily at the outset, then gradually builds up a bit of steam and sunlight, maintaining it even when they close the song with a return to the opening statement. At a different extreme, "Somnambulist" morphs in and out of its structure.
A couple tracks have Iago switching over to Rhodes. "Dom's Riff" is a happening little tune, all well and good, but it's the album closer, a cover of dream pop band My Bloody Valentine that steals the show. Bishop lends "Only Shallow" the catchiest groove, with Higgins providing some sweat work to dig it in deep. Meanwhile, Cole adding some alto flute to enhance the glittering beauty of Iago's Rhodes brings the song on home.
A thoughtful, supremely listenable album is how Bishop's last recording was often described. It's just as useful in describing the closing song to Travelogue
, as well as every song that preceded it.