Boris Kozlov ‘Conversations At The Well’ (Criss Cross Jazz) 3/5

boris-kozlovAfter 13 appearances as sideman on the Criss Cross label, Boris Kozlov, one of New York’s busiest and well-respected bassists, now makes his debut for the label with the trio outing “Conversations at the well”. With David Gilmore on guitar and Rudy Royston on drums, the trio work their way through nine tunes from Monk to Shorter to Mingus and Ellington. Kozlov has, throughout his career, contributed original pieces in various settings, most notably with the cooperative quintet “Opus 5”, but for this recording he took the decision to record a sonic autobiography comprising repertoire composed by eight of his heroes. “There are times I’ve felt the holy grail for any musician would be to record their own music and hopefully make some kind of new statement on that”, says Kozlov “But when I thought about what I should do on this record, I realised that I’m a sideman 90 percent of the time. You fall in love with other people’s tunes, and their music can take precedence over your own.” After determining this, the bassist reached out to guitarist Gilmore and drummer Royston to help realise his vision. The strong affinities can be heard throughout the session, the mutual associations that are shared between the three musicians making for a sincere and intuitive recording.

The album opens with Bill Evans’ “Five”, an excellent intro to what this trio are all about. “Evans always played it concise, and I’d want him to open it up more for everyone to play on”, comments Kozlov. “So we decided to play the tune for itself before jumping into the rhythm changes.” Kozlov, Gilmore and Royston show throughout this recording that the classic tunes they choose to take on are in very safe hands. At times their interpretations are inspiring, whilst at other times, whilst I fully appreciate the skill of the performance, I am left just a little cold…perhaps a touch too much reverence in the approach? Mingus’ “Conversation” sees the bassist unleashing a mighty opening solo, and Wayne Shorter’s “Orbits” benefits from some great trio interaction. There’s some excellent soloing from all three musicians on Keith Jarrett’s “Semblance”, and a lovely bowed bass stands out on Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss”. For Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of The Hurricane”, Kozlov takes his approach from listening to the great Ron Carter; “He plays different changes on each version, and I utilised these ideas in putting together a solo chorus that follows the tune’s logic, and doesn’t become an F-minor blues, as it often does.” There’s a really good take on Ornette Colman’s “Latin Genetics”, before the only band original on the album, “Headless Blues” which was co-written by all three band members. The album closes with a very enjoyable version of Monk’s “Pannonica”.

Overall, “Conversations at the well” is an enjoyable, solid jazz recording from this trio. It doesn’t quite lift this listener as high as I would have liked, but it is filled with some superb playing and trio interaction, making for rewarding listening.

Mike Gates