Never underestimate the power of the Midwest. Continuing a recent run of Minnesota-born jazz talent that includes guitarist Todd Clauser and the Bad Plus, bassist Chris Morrissey offers a snapshot of his inviting way with melody on the wryly titled “North Hero.”
The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the album was also produced by Bad Plus drummer Dave King, a connection that stands to reason given Morrissey also performed with King’s limber Minneapolis-based project Happy Apple.
With those kinds of connections you might expect Morrissey to have nimble chops, and he’s also been heard backing the intricate indie rock of Andrew Bird along with fellow singer-songwriters Ben Kweller and Sara Bareilles. The plaintive “Minor Silverstein” lifts out of a murmuring saxophone line by Mike Lewis (who also performed with Bon Iver) that’s gracefully shadowed by pianist Aaron Parks, who also delivers a cascading venture into the blues on “One Worn Mile.”
“Midland, Texas Picnic Area” features a more swinging pace punctuated by drummer Mark Guiliana and a slippery lead by Lewis, and the four-on-the-floor rhythm driving “Hands Crystals Anderson” recalls the locomotive thrust of something from the Bad Plus’ catalog aided by chunky chords from Parks.
But despite such touchstones Morrissey isn’t so easy to peg, and though his album revels in a sense of place the results are worth hearing in any time zone.