Brian Quezergue, Reflections (Independent)

Brian Quezergue's debut album Reflections
Brian Quezergue sets up his debut CD, Reflections, to highlight the bass guitar’s power and versatility as an instrument. This would be unremarkable—Quezergue is the CD’s composer, arranger and bass guitar player, and his name alone appears on the cover—but for its genre. Smooth jazz fusion albums such as Reflections tend to bury the bass line in favor of harmonic exploration on the high end, but Quezergue eschews that approach. From the first track, “Morning Prayer,” the bass comes out smoking and doesn’t stop. His more rhythmic approach to the material should win over fans of more straight-ahead jazz.

As listeners familiar with smooth jazz might expect, Reflections features flugelhorn, trumpet, piccolo and a string quartet on one track each, and Quezergue’s arrangements call upon them to improvise within familiar stylistic parameters. In particular, the interplay between the string quartet, the bass guitar and Mike Esneault’s piano on “Seed of Life” pushes the composition’s harmonic progression in front of its swing. Quezergue’s bass and Jonathan Gerhardt’s cello combine to fill out the bottom register as the higher instruments stack exploratory melodies atop each other. It’s precisely executed and beautifully colored, like the rest of the CD.

Drummer Julian Garcia, who anchors the rhythm section along with Quezergue on all but the last track, locks in to keep the ensemble in all its permutations moving forward. The rhythmic strength of Reflections effectively balances its theoretical concern with harmony and texture with its musical sense of time or performance.