The bassist Mark Wade is a new name to me, but after hearing the warm booming sound of his bass on his sophomore album Moving Day, be assured I will follow his career more closely. In a world that has so many accomplished musicians it is often difficult to separate yourself from your peers. To have a voice that is all your own is important, but just as important is that indefinable quality that allows you to magically make a connection with your audience. Wade seems to have found that happy medium. He is an orchestral as well as a jazz player and teaches at the Jazz Studies program at Leigh University. His debut album Event Horizon from 2015 was well received.
On Moving Day Mark’s rich, burnished bass is complimented by his sensitive trio mates Tim Harrison on piano and Scott Neumann on drums. Together these three present seven of Wade’s compositions and two reimagined standards that simply delight and satisfy. By his own admission this album is less abstract and more personal than his last, drawing from his experiences.
The opening and title track “Moving Day” starts with a repeating piano motif over which Wade plays a moving melody. The composition captures the anxiety and anticipation of moving to a new place. Harrison’s piano has a light airy feel, dancing with hope, and Neumann’s splashing cymbals and rolling toms capture the organized chaos of moving. Wade’s fleet bass solo is agitated and full of excitement, but with an underlying sense of future promise. His articulation is so strong, clear and uplifting that even at its most boisterous you are carried away with its authenticity of feeling.
“Wide Open,” another Wade composition that utilizes a repeating motif, is a driving song that features odd meters, shifting rhythmic patterns and ascending piano lines. Harrison’s piano meanders over the changing time all the while building to an apex. Wade’s bass is featured on a percolating solo, while accentuated by the rolling tom and dashing cymbal work of Neumann, before once again ascending to the coda and a repeat of the original motif.
You can hear a bit of Wade’s classical leanings on “The Bells,” an interestingly impressionistic piece that integrates a melody fragment from Debussy’s “La Mer” (The Sea). Wade weaves the fragment into his own jazz rhythm with starts and stops that have their own internal dynamic. Opening with a declaratory piano intro, it then morphs into a more sauntering composition, with an ebullient walking bass line by Wade. Suddenly the tempo shifts and it’s like we enter a zone, an aural seascape made up of piano, bowed bass and cymbals with its own organic feel. The music becomes declarative, as Wade takes a deeply introspective and free sounding solo of placid serenity, before the group switches back again to a more defined tempo. Harrison’s piano is relentless, like a sea surge in his repeated motif at the close.
Where Wade seems to shine is his reimagining of songs from the canon. On his “Another Night in Tunisia,” a play on Dizzy Gillespie’s famous composition, he and his trio are not content to swing it in straight four time, but wind up finding ways to cut it up with multiple variations that often involve changing tempos that they execute flawlessly.
Wade puts a similarly interesting twist to the standard “Autumn Leaves,” which he cleverly juxtaposes with Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage" to great effect. The bassist effectively bends and slides his strings creating controlled deep glissandos of sound that are quite impressive. Harrison’s piano has a crystalline shimmer to it.
Wade’s other compositions include a ballad about the promise and excitement of budding love affair “Something of a Romance;” the evocative “Midnight in the Cathedral,” a musical, third stream stroll through a Cathedral at night where we are given a chance to listen to Wade’s concept of the universality of music from the medieval to the modern; and the lively New Orlean’s inspired march “The Quarter,” with its bouncy drum cadence by Neumann and Wade’s buoyant bass lines.
The closing composition is titled “The Fading Rays of Sunlight” and is the perfect way to end this impressive and enjoyable album. Wade and Harrison play an ascending melody line like the last shimmering rays of a setting sun, luminous and warm. Neumann offers a steady but subdued rhythmic sway as Harrison plays an uplifting solo that finds him at his most lyrical. Wade’s final bass solo is nimble, joyous and brimming with possibilities. It’s as if the fading rays of today’s sunset give promise to tomorrows’ anticipated sun rise. The light dims, and the colors deepen in tone and majesty, but the promise of a return is implicit. The group ends in a triumvirate of satisfied calm.