Influenced by those albums and more, Grenadier creates an album of imagination and beauty. From the bowing majesty of Oceanic, it is clear—and Grenadier says as much in the liner notes—that this is an introspective work. He calls it “an excavation into who I am as a bass player.” What has been mined are jewels of great worth.
Seven of the twelve pieces were composed by Grenadier himself with others by his wife, Rebecca Martin, John Coltrane/Paul Motian, two by Wolfgang Muthspiel, and George Gershwin. But Grenadier interprets them through his unique understanding and talent, creating (or re-creating) works of stunning achievement and rare beauty.
In Pettiford, Grenadier pays homage to Oscar Pettiford who, with Charles Mingus, shared top bassist honors until is passing in 1960. Pettiford the artist helped to bring in the Be-Bop movement. In Pettiford the composition, Grenadier incorporates Pettiford’s stylings into his own.
The Gleaner is the third Grenadier original with its bowing beauty and lovely melody and ambience. Seriously, it may be my favorite solo bass track ever. It is followed by Woebegone, a tune that switches back to the fingering felicity for which Grenadier has become so respected and admired.
Grenadier’s wife, Rebecca Martin, wrote Gone Like the Season Does. The melody is beautiful and Grenadier is faithfully devoted to the piece and his craft and care make the piece a true standout on the album. He shows that same devotion and care to the dual piece Compassion/The Owl of Cranston by John Coltrane/Paul Motian. It is remarkably and seamlessly stitched together and takes the piece(s) to places Coltrane and Motian would have loved.
Vineland and Lovelair are also Grenadier originals. Vineland is an intriguing, even fascinating, exercise in bowing technique and composition. Lovelair is a slower, fingered work and creates a warm setting from the unique approach to the sometimes dissonant, always interesting creation.
Bagatelle 1 and Bagatelle 2 are both by the masterful Wolfgang Muthspiel. Haunting and daunting, the pieces go from slowly bowed colorful tones in 1 to the rapid-fire finger-work and intricacy of 2.
George Gershwin’s My Man’s Gone Now from Porgy & Bess is complete in its painfulness and isolation. Grenadier expands the loss and loneliness through the sadness of the double bass. It plunges the hearer deeper into the despair. So well done.
Grenadier closes the album with an original, the all-too-brief A Novel in a Sigh. The track is, in fact, not much longer than a sigh. There are only eight or nine sustained discernable tones and it is remarkable. It is a bold and even heart-felt way to end such a bold and heart-felt album.
Grenadier has never disappointed in any of his work as a supporting character. With The Gleaners, Grenadier proves that he can take his place alongside the ECM greats like Eberhard Weber, Dave Holland, and Miroslav Vitous. Grenadier is cerebral and emotional at the same time, passionate and poetic, exploratory and full of expectancy.
At least, that is what I have gleaned.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl