When it’s recorded correctly, Gary Peacock’s bass is one of those instruments you could listen to forever. Let’s kick off an adjective parade. Supple, alert, blithe, clever, erudite, svelte, keen, intuitive, dreamy, shrewd, determined, okay okay you get it – the 80-year-old master has a touch that fits a myriad of situations. That agility is one of the reasons he sounds just as compelling on this oft genteel trio album as he did in 1964 helping Albert Ayler concoct the fervent eruptions of ‘Ghosts.’ Playing to the situation is a Peacock forte – from hyper action that’s thick with notes to reflective passages that revel in silence, his work couldn’t be any more authoritative.
On Now This pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron make plenty of room for their boss to steer tunes by simply floating them a soft breeze of notes. It’s a tack that helps define the designs of these pieces, and bolsters the idea that interplay is born of genuine immediacy. “Shadows” is just as eerie as it is pretty. Though stark, it’s rich in nuance. “Gaia” dances, and finds Copland creating some truly alluring moments. “Esprit de Muse” brings agitation to the table but always yields to grace; something similar happens in “This.” The rapport between Copland and Peacock has been honed for years (spin the spectral “Blue In Green” from 2009’s Insight for a glimpse at their communion skills). With *Now This* it has reached some kind of peak. Enhanced by Baron’s mercurial notions, the music is deliciously fluid. Counterpoint sections amp up the frenzy; a stormy vibe might come out of nowhere only to be quelled by the swish of a cymbal. It’s the untethered approach that’s so charming. For players like these, ample elbow room becomes a playground full of options.
Though he’s not a shy improviser, understatement has long been a Peacock ploy. Here, a deep lyricism guides him through places where a mere phrase or two steers the band towards the light. His revered work with Bill Evans, the poise he’s brought to Keith Jarrett’s Standards trio – poetry is key to the bassist’s approach. In essence, it makes Now This a soft barrage of beauty.