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CD Review: Ashley Summers - True North



True North

Ashley Summers – Bass

Seamus Blake – Saxophone

Daniel Bruce – Guitar

Daniel Murphy – Piano

Chris Baker – Drums

Bassist and composer Ashley Summers draws inspiration from her travels and life experiences to craft captivating and emotive music. On her auspicious debut, True North, she showcases six of her charming and elegant originals.

The title track, for instance, is densely textured and rich in poetry. The expansive, overlapping phrases from the band members give it an orchestral feel. Summers’ contemplative solo bisects the piece leading to guitarist Daniel Bruce’s mellifluous song that crackles with spontaneity. Saxophonist Seamus Blake takes center stage with urbane flair and unbridled passion.

The way Summers builds her tunes is delightfully intriguing. On the opener, “King of Swords,” she starts off with a deceptively simple refrain, setting an expectant ambience. This cluster of notes becomes the backbone of the ensemble sound that evolves into a cinematic polyphonic exchange. Pianist Daniel Murphy improvises with suavity and excitement as his spontaneous resonant chords cleverly embellish the melody.

Summers is unlike other young bassists who, for various reasons, also double as vocalists. She, refreshingly, bucks the trend and makes her strings do the singing instead. On the melancholic and intimate “The Matriarch” Summers lets loose an eloquent, tender soliloquy that brims with lyricism. Drummer Chris Baker’s sparse brushes and Murphy’s chiming keys enhance the haunting ambience further. Blake follows with an expressive and moving extemporization that complements Summers’

Similarly, on the sophisticated and fluid “Raison d’Être,” Baker and Bruce support Summers with reverberating thrums and shimmering tones. Out of this mesmerizing interplay, Bruce emerges with a darkly hued and ardent performance. Blake follows, blowing fiery and intelligent lines. Baker’s thunderous bests propel the concluding group vamps.

With this stimulating first release, Summers has made a solid mark on the Chicago jazz scene. This is due to, in equal parts, her brilliant writing, her deft leadership and her instrumental prowess. Hopefully, it won’t be a long wait for the second installment of this accomplished and charismatic artist’s work.

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