Music review: 'When Trees Speak'

August 31, 2013 

Jimmy Masters' "When Trees Speak."

  • Jazz Jimmy Masters “When Trees Speak”

Masters’ bass takes root in impressionist music

The title of this album alludes to Jimmy Masters’ instrument, the bass. Most of the performances are impressionistic, with Masters largely rooted in a supporting role. When he takes the rare solo, you are drawn to his round tone and percussive attack. On “The Water Is Wide” he exudes soul by simply playing the melody.

A resident of Virginia Beach, Masters is part of a revived jazz scene in that area. He employs mostly local musicians on the album. Tenor and soprano saxophonist J.C. Kuhl, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the main soloist, cooking the blues on “Shaggy’s Delight,” exercising his considerable chops on “Nothing for Certain” and evoking a moonlit sylvan scene on soprano on “Nightwalk.” John Toomey (who heads the music department at Old Dominion University) and Justin Kauflin share keyboard duties. Mary Lou Osterhous, Masters’ wife, plays acoustic guitar and sings on the folksy “The Storm,” a performance introduced by drummer Brian Jones’ sound effects. Electric guitarist Trey Pollard and vibist Joe Locke set up shimmering background colors on a couple of performances, and both solo invitingly on “Special Ones.”

Masters, who composed all but three of the tunes, is heard not only on bass but also as the spoken-word poet on “Alone in the Field” and “A Flock of Blackbirds.” This is a diverse jazz album that takes the “road less traveled” and makes the journey worthwhile.

Correspondent Owen Cordle

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