Gary Bias ‘East 101’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 3/5

Nimbus and Nimbus West are pretty much the same label operated by Tom Albach out of the West Coast USA. Many of the current crop of spiritualized jazz musicians on the West Coast still owe a debt of gratitude to the label and the influences it brought to the overall scene.
As with many Nimbus recordings of the period, this 5 track album by saxophonist Gary Bias has been long out of print and this much-needed re-mastered reissue comes at a good time.

The first track on the album is the standout cut ‘Asiki’ which is a laidback but classy affair featuring Bias on soprano accompanied by label stablemate Rickey Kelly on the vibes and featuring a stunning solo by David Tillman (of Potter and Tillman fame) on piano. The production on this track alone just sounds so classy.
‘Dear Violet’ – a song Bias dedicated to his late grandmother feels very spiritual in its approach with just saxophone and bass in the style of Pharoah Sanders but you feel the track ends after over 6 mins promising more. You always feel like you were waiting for the song to get going but it never really does.
‘Arthur’s Vamp’ with its memorable melodic bass hook rounds the first side out. Bias has a similar tone to Arthur Blythe (whom the track is dedicated to) when he picks up the alto. The band all put in good solos here and it’s a contrast to how the album’s initial chilled classy starter.
The title track kicks off side 2 and is a jaunty, boppy affair that ebbs and flows in which the band take their respective solos. And we end with the light but jazzy ‘As Children Play’ where we hear the sax man playing a little flute. It is a playground type theme set up in a jazz waltz signature highlighting David Tillman’s prowess on the piano once more, Bias himself on soprano saxophone and a solo by bass man Roberto Miranda.

Whilst East 101 isn’t Nimbus records most rare and sort after album, it is still worth having in your collection – if not for the ‘Asiki’ track alone.

Sammy Goulbourne