It's not easy to amass the rich and varied list of credits that New York bassist and composer Kermit Driscoll has. But then again, there are few musicians capable of lending their unique voice to a project and affecting that music in unpredictable and rewarding ways like Driscoll has over the course of his long and storied career. Kermit Driscoll may best be known as a member of guitarist Bill Frisell's acclaimed late 80s/early 90s group, breaking ground on several albums of forward-thinking compositions and Americana-inspired song-form. Along with the iconoclastic Frisell, inventive drummer Joey Baron, and cellist Hank Roberts, Driscoll honed his unique style through exciting simultaneous improvisation on countless gigs throughout the world. Not simply relegated to playing the traditional bass role, Driscoll approached the music as an open canvas, sometimes leading melodically or even leaving unexpected space in the music. It was a unique approach, and left a deep impression on many musicians and fans who witnessed the group.
But it's wasn't only Frisell who benefited from the bassist's creativity. After graduating from the esteemed Berklee College of Music in the 1970s and moving to New York, Driscoll played with the legendary Buddy Rich and later appeared on albums with trumpeter Dave Douglas (Souvenir) and guitarist Ben Monder (Oceana). He has toured with clarinetist Don Byron and been an integral part of drummer John Hollenbeck's 18-piece Large Ensemble. Driscoll's extensive credits include recordings and/or performances with Chet Baker, John Cale, Pointer Sisters, Toots Thielemans, Phoebe Snow, John Zorn, and many others.
Besides his formidable jazz skills, Driscoll has lent his talents to over 50 Broadway shows, several film scores and TV commercials, and major symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur. He is also currently affiliate faculty at Sarah Lawrence College.
Driscoll's newest CD (and first as a leader), Reveille, is out now on Nineteen-Eight Records. Along with bright newcomer Kris Davis on piano, the album re-unites Driscoll with two old friends from his Berklee days - Frisell, and master drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. The telepathic group interplay, coupled with the bassist's idiosyncratic writing, makes for an eye-opening listening experience and a bold statement that this musician is far from done.
"...the bassist Kermit Driscoll has had a considerable impact in adventurous jazz circles over the last 20 years." - Nate Chinen, The New York Times
If you're going to wait 30 years to release your first album as a leader, you might as well write a few top-notch compositions and assemble an incredible group of musicians to play them. And with Reveille (out now on 19/8 Records) consummate sideman and forward-thinking bassist Kermit Driscoll has done just that and more. Reveille reunites Driscoll with his old Berklee College of Music buddies - guitarist Bill Frisell, whose critically acclaimed trio the bassist was part of for many years, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, whose stints with Frank Zappa, Sting, and countless others are the stuff of legend. Add exciting New York pianist Kris Davis to the mix, and sparks fly.
Combining grooving post-bop, experimental tone poems, and exquisite group interplay, the record is also truly a showcase for Driscoll's big upright tone and envelope-pushing approach on the electric bass. The laid-back, funky dirge of the album-opening "Boomstatz" sets the proceedings off on a quirky note with a melody Driscoll wrote on guitar two decades ago. "For Hearts" has origins in Gershwin, and modulates between 5/4 and 12/8 time. Colaiuta and Driscoll provide the perfect support for Frisell's unique embellishments on the traditional "Chicken Reel," and "Ire" allows the musicians to wear their "free" hats while navigating the minor second/major second form.
"Farm Life" contains subtle, lyrical guitar work from Frisell, and a deep, melodic bass solo coda that's less to do with flash, but with a keen understanding of dynamics and phrasing. Conversely, Josef Zawinul's "Great Expectations" features Driscoll attacking the ominous bass line that has haunted him for years.
Indeed the epitome of the type of record created for repeated listening, Reveille is a beautifully-recorded and performed piece of modern jazz that is sure to delight musicians and casual fans alike. Let's hope it's not another 30 years until we hear more tunes from the exceptional bassist or the stellar line-up of improvisers gathered here.
Kermit Driscoll - Bass
Bill Frisell - Guitar
Kris Davis - Piano
Vinnie Colaiuta - Drums