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Michael Bisio

Room For One More Bass Player?

by Jeff Waggoner

In a most unlikely space, the Sand Lake Arts Center, which has never sponsored a jazz concert, a fabulous – and equally unlikely -- trio came together on a recent Wednesday night. (Earlier in the week, the trio had played the Knitting Factory.)

Seattle-based double bassist Michael Bisio, Montana native Bob Nell on piano, and NYC drummer Jay Rosen -- avant-gardists all – showed up to play a mainstream jazz concert that got even the Beatles’ lovers in the crowd tapping their toes.

The night was made up largely of Bob Nell original compositions, including a tender ballad, “EMREM,” written for the late-great guitarist Emily Remler with whom Nell played, and “For Monk,” which showed that Nell, as adventurous as he can be, is more than willing to take his turn standing on the shoulders of giants.

Both those tunes appear on Nell’s 1992 New World Record album, “Why I like Coffee,” which includes: Jack Walrath, trumpet, Ray Anderson, trombone; Kelly Roberty, bass, and Brad Edwards drums

Nell has paid his dues backing Eddie Harris, Ray Brown, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, David “Fathead” Newman, Nat Adderley, and a multitude of others, on their tours through the Midwest and Canada.

While the pianist was brilliant the whole night, the person on center stage was bassist Bisio.

It was his homecoming. After some 30 years as a cornerstone of the jazz scene in Seattle, Bisio is coming back to the Capital Region for a year-long stint starting in August.

No doubt we will be seeing Bisio with one of his favorite playing partners -- multi-instrumental virtuoso Joe McPhee, a Poughkeepsie resident.

Early in the concert, Bisio, a 1973 Troy High School grad, cracked it was the best audience he had ever had – many of the 50 or so in attendance were family members.

When Bisio arrives in August for his year-long sojourn, jazz fans in the Capital Region should take time to welcome him back and listen to some of his jaw-dropping and ingenious runs on the long double bass neck.

Make room for one more great jazz musician in the Capital District.

Welcome home Mike.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.