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BassDrumBone Marks 40 Years Of Playing Together With 'The Long Road'


This is FRESH AIR. Trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway first played together as a trio in 1977. That band came to be called BassDrumBone. The trio is still at it and has a new double album. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says this group still delivers.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: The trio BassDrumBone has been playing together 40 years, but they don't play together all the time. They're less like old married people than friends from school days who vacation together, reverting to old roles even as they show how they'd grown. It makes for a richer if instantly comfortable conversation. It's great to hear the interactive drummer Gerry Hemingway react to and provoke trombonist Ray Anderson. They know each other's timing.


WHITEHEAD: In this trio without piano, bassist Mark Helias minds the structures, plays little background melodies and brings a springy swing to the rhythm. He also plays in tune and gets a burnished woody tone, so he's pretty much got it all. On BassDrumBone's new double album "The Long Road," a couple of guests swing by to pay their respects, including pianist Jason Moran who doesn't trample on the airy textures.


WHITEHEAD: BassDrumBone's other guest on "The Long Road" is tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano who really moves in and makes himself at home. With him in there, the trio plus one sounds like a new quartet. The three tunes with Lovano are among the highlights.


WHITEHEAD: Ray Anderson gets a lot of the human voice into his trombone sound - a talking, throat-clearing, guttural sound that harks back to jazz's rude beginnings. Joe Lovano hears just what Anderson is up to and gets right on his wavelength.


WHITEHEAD: Forty years is a good, long run for any organization, but the trio won't be resting on their laurels. "The Long Road" paves the way for BassDrumBone's 40th anniversary touring in 2017. It's the kind of record to make you hope the band is coming to your town.


GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONEAudio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "The Long Road" by the trio BassDrumBone.

Coming up, David Edelstein reviews the new movie "The Founder" starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the CEO of McDonald's. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Whitehead
Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.