Published in Jazz Improv, V. 4, No. 3 (12/2003)

Don Payne, Rhapsodic Echoes, Recycled Notes Music
Released 2001. Recorded March 10 and August 10, 2000, Pompano Beach, Florida.
"Rhapsodic Echoes"; "Promise Me"; "Minor Ballade"; "Blues in the AM"; "Unscheduled Departures"; "Bertha Fay Bluz"; "For Pete’s Sake"; "M.A.P.S."; "Almost Everything"; "Uptown Brown"; "Unscheduled Departures" (Reprise).
Personnel: Don Payne, acoustic bass; Don Friedman, Mark Marineau, and Kenny Ascher, piano; John Michalak and Dave Hubbard, tenor saxophone; Bob Mann, guitar; John Yarling and Allen Schwartzberg, drums.

Review by Virginia A. Schaefer

Don Payne has an impressive record as an adaptable and supportive performer who’s played acoustic and electric bass, live and in the studio, with a wide variety of jazz and non-jazz artists. Those included, in the 1950s and 1960s Stan Getz, Ornette Coleman, and Astrud Gilberto, and in the 1970s, Janis Ian, Leonard Cohen, and Harry Chapin. In the past few years, Payne has returned to concentrating on acoustic bass and mainstream jazz. As Payne explains in self-written liner notes, Rhapsodic Echoes honors his departed colleagues and also showcases the musicians who join him here – some of these he’s played with for decades and others are more recent associates. Payne and his crew perform their own compositions in straight-ahead trio and quartet arrangements. Payne comes across as a modest performer here, keeping his solos brief and low-volume on most of the tracks. The result is a tribute to the living and the departed, as well as to the vitality of music, especially of straight-ahead jazz.

Most prominent among Payne’s co-performers is pianist Don Friedman, who gives the first two tracks the sound of a piano trio in the style of Bill Evans. Payne and Friedman co-composed "Rhapsodic Echoes" and Payne composed "Promise Me"; both pieces seem to be based on the changes of the standard "Beautiful Love". Payne’s solos are solid and satisfying, but brief and rather low in volume. "Minor Ballade" is a lovely Friedman original in a modern style with surprise major-minor turns (cf. "Soul Eyes" by Mal Waldron), on which Payne plays a very expressive and melodic solo. The twelve-bar blues "Bertha Fay Bluz" was written by Friedman and Payne along with tenor saxophonist John Michalak, who uses his well-shaped sound in extensive solos. Payne wrote "For Pete’s Sake", a 12-bar blues with somewhat unconventional chord changes. Friedman’s piano solo is compelling in its use of feathery arpeggios. "Almost Everything" is also a Friedman composition, based on the chord changes of the standard "All the Things You Are". Friedman leads this piano trio number, taking a tasty, bopping solo that starts in a low range.

"M.A.P.S." is an uptempo, swinging, bluesy, good-natured song that Payne composed in honor of the three longtime studio-session colleagues who join him: guitarist Bob Mann, pianist Kenny Ascher, and drummer Allen Schwartzberg. This quartet also plays "Unscheduled Departures", which Payne composed in remembrance of deceased jazz musicians and which is more upbeat than one might expect. After a dreamy solo piano introduction, the guitar joins in and the tempo picks up to a Latin dance rhythm. Ascher plays some interesting chromatic runs, and there’s such a close interplay among him, Mann, and Payne that their instruments’ sounds seem to meld.

Pianist Mark Marineau and tenor saxophonist Dave Hubbard join Payne on Hubbard’s "Blues in the AM". Hubbard’s tone is suitably hard-edged with a little rasp. Drummer John Yarling, who plays all except two tracks on the disc, gets to show his skill on trade-four solos. Payne’s solo is hard-hitting with a lot of octave jumping and bent notes. "Uptown Brown", also by Hubbard, is a blues with a slinky, 12/8 feel accentuated by Yarling’s snare-and-splash-cymbal-heavy sound. Again, Payne jumps into a rousing and masterful solo, showing his affinity for beat-heavy blues. This quartet reprises "Unscheduled Departures", taking it slow for a while and then picking up the pace to close on an optimistic note.