A stalwart member of the Chicago scene, Marlene Rosenberg has made infrequent trips to the studio as a leader. Bassprint
is her first CD in a decade, but it's well worth waiting for, and perhaps it shows the value of patience and persistence. Rosenberg is assured at the helm, nothing to prove, no chip on her shoulder.
Aside from two tasty tunes by Kenny Barron, all the music is original, showing the bassist's interest in oblique, harmonically intriguing material. Several titles - "Wayneish," "Eyes for Shorter" - wink openly at their source inspiration, the latter a lovely ballad that reworks Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes." Rosenberg knows how to get juices flowing without harsh or edgy materials. "L.J." is a buoyant, mid-tempo tune with the leader's beefy bass and a funky undertow providing a springboard, urging on Geof Bradfield's probing, prehensile tenor. The spring-like "Tale of Two Monk Keys," features a sweet, lithe, skipping line that's gleeful grist for both Bradfield and guitarist Scott Hesse, a contemplative counter-line casting things in a darker shade.
Hesse is terrific: great ears and crazy chops. Comping, he's inventive, offering suggestive and unexpected colors, sometimes spidery, fingered chords; when he cuts loose, his lines can be thrilling. Bradfield is one of the few tenor players who don't make me cringe when heading for the soprano. He's sensitive without being florid or icy, playing with grit over the funky, sunny beat on Barron's "Sunshower" (marred only by the unwelcome idea of multi-tracking arco and pizz bass) or laying a gentile line over the urgent rimshots of "Spare Parts."