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Joe Policastro Trio

  • Café Coda 1224 Williamson Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

A jazz trio known for interesting covers turns mostly to originals on its latest album. Info/tix

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Chicago bassist Joe Policastro does compose original material, but the trio he leads has turned the endless re-purposing and re-contextualizing of the jazz world into a calling card of sorts. His first three albums in a trio setting variously took on West Side Story, film soundtracks ranging from Blade Runner to Yojimbo, and the Pixies' "Wave Of Mutilation," so even the most casual listener can't help but notice that Policastro is reaching for all manner of source material and hoping to make you hear it differently through the lean but subtle harmonic shadings of drums, bass, and electric guitar. Policastro, guitarist Dave Miller, and drummer Mikel Avery start the new album Nothing Here Belongs with a similar approach, unpacking the coiled suspense of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." And it ends with the trio's affectionate take on the loveliest of Talking Heads songs, "This Must Be The Place." But six of the record's nine tracks are originals. Policastro has cited the jazz-bass great Ron Carter as an inspiration for "Oceans Of Notions," which builds off of a few deceptively simple phrases and includes a warm, conversational bass solo. "Plain Song" finds the trio in a meditative slow-burn mode that reminds me a bit of Madison bassist/composer John Christensen's 2018 album Dear Friend, which also featured Miller on guitar. Avery, whose work also includes playing with the brilliant Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society, bolsters "In The Quiet" with gently stirring rhythms and a range of drum textures. All in all, Nothing Here Belongs gives us reason to hope that Policastro and company can bring the same versatility to originals that they bring to far-flung covers. —Scott Gordon