Fabian Zone Trio,
The Masters Return
(CAP, 2007)

Don't get this one for your iPod. There's just too much bass going on and the recorded sound deserves something better. Before you buy, maybe you should bag one of those SUVs with the dual 10,000-watt amplifiers and 47 speakers. (Don't skimp on the subwoofers.) Then you be bouncin' through the hood past jealous, admiring eyes as Christian Fabian (bass) nails one round, plump note after another. Of course the stares may turn a little quizzical, disbelieving even, as Fabian launches into an arco (bowed) version of "My One & Only Love."

Yup, rap is in and musicianship largely out, so skilled jazz bass players are unlikely to bring admiring stares when looped 5-note samples (I'm being generous) are all you need to rock your suspension, and world.

There. I feel better.

If on the other hand, you need more variety in your bass lines, this is a good place to start. Fabian is a Swedish-born player who has spent the last decade anchoring the Lionel Hampton Big Band, a gig guaranteed to develop strong and calloused fingers. Here he's in a more relaxed atmosphere. His trio includes Mike Longo (keyboards) and Lewis Nash (drums). They, along with guests Jimmy Owens (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Andres Boiarsky (tenor sax), are veterans. With nothing left to prove, they frolic in a shared musical heritage. The leader waxes mystical in his liner notes, but the general idea is that many of the tunes were written by icons, and all five of the session's musicians have performed with jazz masters.

Note that the full quintet appears on only the opening and closing tracks. In between the guests each have two feature turns in a quartet format. The other half of the album consists of arrangements for the trio, or two musicians out of the trio.

Longo was closely associated with Dizzy Gillespie, whose "Bebop" gives Jimmy Owens a workout. Owens has been a sideman with Gillespie, Ellington and Basie. (Told you these guys have nothing to prove.) His other feature track is "Dear Thaddeus & Roland," his own affecting tribute to Thad Jones and Roland Kirk. (I'm guessing at the surnames.)

The leader wrote three of the 12 tunes. Argentinean Andres Boiarsky caresses Fabian's pretty ballad, "Morning After," and follows that with a contrasting fine and funky version of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon."

But I'll remind you, you need those subwoofers for the full effect. While the album has a mix of instruments, it's good to be leader -- Fabian is a frequent soloist. The aforementioned "My One & Only Love" is a piano/bass duo, and it's bass with drums on "Willow Weep for Me." But don't worry. Fabian swings consistently and is so lyrical in his playing that he overcomes any objections I might have had to that much solo bass. Even his duet with drummer Nash is a delight. Which kind of sums up the entire album. Strongly recommended.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Ron Bierman

12 April 2008

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