The versatile jazz bassist celebrates the release of a delicate and stirring new album. Info
John Christensen is one of three or four people who seem to play all the bass in southern Wisconsin's increasingly fertile jazz community—his collaborators include guitarist Louka Patenaude, saxophonist Anders Svanoe, vocalist Alison Margaret, and the Lesser Lakes Trio—but his new album, Dear Friend, is the first time in about 30 years of performing that he's really let us in on his vision a a composer. His interplay across the album's seven tracks with pianist Johannes Wallmann, guitarist Dave Miller, and drummer Andrew Green—all of whom will join him at this show—suggests that he's developed a lot of patience over the years. The title track starts the record on a contemplative note, building around interlocking, descending figures from Wallmann and Miller. Christensen comes to the fore in the middle of the song, with a subdued but warm solo that tugs the song between melancholy and a sense of calm acceptance.
The entire record feels like one long, deliberate, deep breath (the closing track is even called "Smells Are Awesome"). These four musicians have a lovely rapport, full of ideas but never rushing or showing off. Everything benefits from the remarkable trust between this group, especially how they give each other space—particularly important on my favorite track, "Slate Icicles On Trees." Christensen sets the song’s tone with a graceful, loping phrase, letting Miller's ringing chords and Wallmann's gentle trills create an atmosphere around him; the climax of the song occurs when a little extra reverb kicks in on Christensen's bass, but even that moment is tender and unforced. The slow-building gravity Christensen and company exert on Dear Friend should translate well to the intimate environs of the North Street Cabaret. —Scott Gordon