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Bassist Pat Senatore is a youthful 61-year-old who has played a ton of good music in his life. Among his ace associations: Stan Kenton's Orchestra, Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, the V.I.P. Trio with Cedar Walton and Billy Higgins, and more than occasional performances with such esteemed jazz men as pianists George Cables, Roger Kellaway and Billy Childs, saxophonists Joe Henderson and Joe Farrell and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

It makes sense that at this point in his career, Senatore is looking to do what he wants to do, and one of his favorites ensembles is the piano-less trio.

"I really love a piano and playing in piano trios," said Senatore, who from 1978 to 1983 operated the well-known Malibu-based jazz club, Pasquale's. "But when you play with a pianist, he dominates. You have to play his style. Without the piano, you have a lot of freedom for things to happen."

Senatore has superbly solid time, plays resilient walking bass lines and has grown into a substantial soloist. He appears tonight at Chadney's in Burbank, and, that's right, the room's piano won't be employed. Accompanying the bassist in a setting that he relishes will be the crack team of saxophonist George Harper and drummer Tony Inzalaco.

"In a situation like this, there's so much openness and intimacy," said Senatore, a native of Newark, N.J., who has long resided in Studio City with his wife, Barbara. "You can hear every note. There's a lot of counterpoint, of line against line. There's also a lot of space; your ear fills in the notes that the piano might have played. What I'm saying is that less is more."

Such circumstances require the musicians to be alert, and flexible. "Everyone has to be real musical," he said. "For instance, the drummer has to be much more than just a time-keeper. He has to play melodies, different sounds."

Though the bassist has been spotlighted on many albums, his recently released "Pasquale" CD is his debut as a leader. At Chadney's, he'll play some of the tunes from that recording as well as some standards.

"I want to rehearse, to try to find ways to treat these songs with this format so they are a little different," he said.

"For instance, we might start with a drum or bass intro, or have George play by himself. We'll see how each tune evolves as we rehearse it, and that's the way we'll play it."

Senatore will also leave room for some spur-of-the-moment selections, the kind that allow for surprising "accidents."

"When you play something that's not familiar, that leaves your brain open for new stuff to come in, rather than things you have played or heard," he said. "It's a way of stretching."

First a child violinist, though he hated it, Senatore had a little more luck with trombone. In high school, he turned to the bass. He won a scholarship to the the prestigious Juilliard School in New York, then headed into the jazz world.

The bassist points out that a life in jazz is hardly one to guarantee financial security, but there are other, lasting rewards.

"In jazz, you never have to play the same way twice," he said. "That's the beauty of it: the creativity. And there's the emotional outlet: However you feel that day will be reflected in your music."

* Pat Senatore plays tonight, 9 to 1 a.m., at Chadney's, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank. No cover, one-drink minimum per show. (818) 843-5333.

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Switch Hitter: Saxophonist Brandon Fields has long enjoyed performing in both the pop-tinged contemporary jazz world and in the more traditional straight-ahead style.

This mix gives his renditions of originals and standards a snazzy bite. Hear his latest stuff on Wednesday, 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., at La Ve Lee (12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; $5, two-drink minimum; 980-8158.)

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