By Don Phipps
There’s a strong hint of New Orleans in trombonist Peter McEachern‘s Bone Code, like sitting on a pier on a humid afternoon watching the barges meander down the Mississippi. With arrangements that provide space for explorations, thanks to its trio format, McEachern gives himself and his cohorts, bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin, the opportunity to adroitly maneuver the musical terrain.
McEachern contributes ten of the 14 compositions on the album, Pavone two, and there are covers of Alice Coltrane’s “Gospel Trane” and Bill Withers’ “Hope She’ll Be Happier.” McEachern’s tunes are generally introspective affairs. Yet in some there’s an air of anticipation or even full-fledged funk-bop. McEachern leaves much of the heavy work to Pavone and Sarin. Pavone shows off his bowing chops on the album and the tone of his bass is reminiscent of Dave Holland. Sarin provides hard driving rhythmic impulses but can just as easily slide into counterpoint plops and drops. He also adds an Ed Blackwell type feel to the urban safari-sounding “Neandering.”
What strikes one as significant, however, is McEachern’s trombone technique, which features a variety of styles played with great intimacy. Take the purity of his tone on “Hope She’ll Be Happier” or the stuttering effect on “Kups.” Or the staccato attack on “Double Helix.” While often subtle but never rambunctious, his understated technique allows the compositions to breath.
Even so, McEachern makes room for some fun. In his upbeat boppish tunes “Sco-Roo” and “Double Helix,” or the bop-funk of his tune “Maps,” McEachern provides bubbling anticipation, the feeling one might experience on the way to meet a date.
It all works. Thanks to McEachern’s trio format and the expressiveness of the trio, Bone Code generates diverse musical moods in a warm and open manner.