Mark Egan – About Now (2014)

Working as a small-scale Pat Metheny Group reunion, About Now finds Mark Egan and Danny Gottlieb serving as both foundation and foil to keyboardist Mitch Forman. The results illustrate — as Forman moves from electric to acoustic piano, and back again — both the sympathetic camaraderie and (more importantly) the extraordinary range of all three.

About Now, which arrived this week courtesy of Wavetone, is the bassist Egan’s second studio effort with Forman since 2010, following Truth be Told. So, while he doesn’t have the history shared with Gottlieb (a college chum who drummed alongside Egan in the Metheny Group from 1977-80), Forman manages to fit into the varied menu of songs here with the same kind of hand-in-glove symmetry.

Egan’s approach to the fretless Pedulla, by turns impressionistically shaded and at others all funky attitude, is echoed in the material. The aptly named “Slinky” cuts a deep swath, while “Little Pagoda” opens up into trace-inspired vistas. “Graceful Branch” allows for a ruminative exploration, while “McKenzie Portage” returns to the groove-focused underpinning.

Then there’s the opening “Sailing,” where Egan pushes hard at the boundaries — overdubbing a eight-string fretless atop his standard instrument, imbuing the tune with yet another striking voice. Of course, that kind of genre-smashing, yet deeply thoughtful journey is part and parcel of Egan’s Elements band, a latter-day collaboration with Gottlieb which has released 10 albums since its founding in 1982.

But Forman, here as elsewhere, sets these two older friends off on a new course — and, as this album’s title indicates, it becomes not about comfy homecomings, but about now.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.