Brad Cheeseman Group – Brad Cheeseman Group (2015)

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Bassist Brad Cheeseman is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in music composition (at York University), but one gets the notion that he’s already mastered composition with his first, full-length album, Brad Cheeseman Group (released June 26, 2015). The Toronto-based musician is just getting started, but I’ve often had to be reminded of that while soaking on his debut long player, because it’s that mature, fully formed and just plain fun to listen to in a non-guilty way.

The Brad Cheeseman Group plays in that crevice of music that’s neither fully straight jazz nor fusion jazz but alchemy that’s inspired by some of the best elements from both worlds. Everyone from Pat Metheny to Donny McCaslin have successfully produced creatively accessible music employing this strategy, and Cheeseman has already gotten a firm grasp of it, too.

For Brad Cheeseman Group, the leader put together a five piece band that included Lorenzo Castelli (drums), Robert Chapman (guitar), Sam Kogen (piano, keys) and Chelsea McBride (tenor sax), wisely marshaling their talents to the benefit of his songs.

And these aren’t your basic head-solo-head songs; Cheeseman favors a series of connected motifs, often brightly coloring them with guitar/sax unison lines and moving from one to another when solo chores are handed off from one performer to another, sometimes revisiting an earlier pattern which may or may not serve as the chorus. The fluid way the melody flows makes that irrelevant, though. Examples of this abound, like on the pretty ballad “Taiya”, the lightly buoyant “Untitled,” or “Skyglow,” full of subtleties like the bass/piano unison used instead of guitar/sax and brilliantly intricate drumming by Castelli.

Cheeseman savors a good groove just like any other contemporary electric bassist, and he finds clever ways to make those. He forms a sharp, lean one with Castelli one for “Bad Groove” and has Chapman and McBride play a snaky progression of notes together the way Mike Stern was apt to do on his early records. On the same song, McBride shows off an ability to carefully build up momentum toward its climax on an extended solo. “La Choza” is another cool drums/bass partnership, featuring Cheeseman on a lyrically supple, high-register bass solo. The stomping funk, rock funk of “Let Me Explain” gets started with bass/fuzz guitar union, and peppered by softer moments for the featured solos.

The ending ” Make of Break It” might be the height of composing and arranging sophistication on this album. Intricate layering of piano/guitar and bass guitar with drums that pieces together the groove. The pairing switches around when the guitar and bass unite, and McBride on her sax leads the band in and out of Brazilian moods. And Cheeseman’s bass solo on this track is his best one of this batch of songs: very dexterous but very melodic, too.

Brad Cheeseman Group heralds the arrival of a bassist who brings fun and sophistication together like few others can, and perhaps no others have done on their first time out.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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