I used to think this John Patitucci guy was just another bass-poppin,’ "teckneek"-over-soul, plays-more-notes-than-he-knows-what-do-with fusion character, a guy whose music I could respect more than actually enjoy. But I popped this new disc of his in the box and whadaya know, he’s developed into a warm, personable composer with a warm, restrained approach to the bass whose assembled a truly boss collection of players to produce a relaxed/relaxing yet substantial disc. Stylistically, Communion is primarily a straight-ahead post-bop session with strong Latin undertones, somewhat reminiscent of the very first of Return To Forever album (on ECM, the one w/ Airto, Flora Purim and Joe Farrell) without actually sounding like it.
This set is not "fusion" in the accepted sense of the term, but it DOES recall an era (1970-74) when fusion meant not only a combination of jazz, R&B/funk and rock, but a concept incorporating elements of jazz past and present (bop, modal, Third Stream, avant/free) with electronics, African, Latin and Asian musics, whatever - a time when "fusion" meant endless possibilities. Of course, like anything else, it couldn’t last - but Patitucci learned from it, and to an extent (conceptually) carries on that outlook, making jazz that’s immediate, inspired, filled with integrity, directly from and to the heart while dancing around in your synapses. There’s some really tasty, bittersweet saxophone played by Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis and Chris Potter, charming vocalese from Luciana Souza, luminously lyrical ‘n’ succinct piano from Brad Mehldau, Bruce Barth and Ed Simon, vivacious drumming from Brian Blade (a "son" of Art Blakey), and some classically-influenced writing for string quartet. Fear not, fans of JP and his bass acumen: he shines and how, virtually making his instrument SING on "Soul Eyes." Communion is a dandy tonic for these tense times.