Roland Guerin: Groove, Swing & Harmony (Tree Entertainment)

The late great drummer Ed Blackwell used to talk about hearing tap dancing in his head. Bassist Roland Guerin achieves that distinctive feet on a wooden dance floor effect when he stands alone with his upright on the signature band battle number “Cherokee” that opens and closes the disc. Guerin engages the entire instrument and his own prowess, including his now renowned slap style, to take the endeavor beyond merely a bass solo and make it whole. It’s a demanding feat, yet the result is fun and engaging. Guerin offers another surprise on the album—he sings. The song is “Growing,” a pleasant number that that has folkish, light-hearted sway. A variety of long-time Guerin associates switch spots throughout the disc. Here it is saxophonist Brice Winston adding spice with Jason Marsalis on drums and Mike Esnealt on piano. The same line-up is in place on Guerin’s composition, the more expected, straight-ahead push of “When It’s Time, It’s Time.” Good work all around on this one—that upright sure has big fine tone. For the middle of the disc, which moves in what could be described as not a smooth but rather a round groove, Guerin picks up the electric bass and often approaches melodically like a guitar. Drummer James Alsanders slides into the drum position with his cymbals ringing beneath Esnealt’s elegant piano on “Fall.” Up next is alto man Wess Anderson whose punctuated notes on “Alone Together” offer a subtle variation to the rhythm. Drummer Troy Davis’ often-unanticipated slams become the exclamation points within the tune. The opportunity to check out how each of the three drummers works with Guerin is a plus. Groove, Swing & Harmony is sort of the aural equivalent of watching Roland Guerin perform – content yet determined.