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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9

CD Reviews

NATHAN HUBBARD: Seeds of Rivers

by Jim TrageserJune 2024

San Diego percussionist Nathan Hubbard has long resided in between easily labeled styles, seemingly more comfortable in the borderlands. His earliest recordings 15 years ago were full-on sound experiments—as short on structure as they were long on pushing the envelope.

In 2014, with encinitas and everything after, volume one (followed by volumes two through five), he began to write within a more formalized structure, albeit a fairly loose one. This was closer to, say, the free jazz of Art Ensemble of Chicago than the wholly unstructured avant-garde of Pierre Schaefer. His music in the decade since has drawn on both jazz and modern classical—in both instrumentation and style—while never entirely embracing either.

Not that his music has developed linearly; he returned to a more experimental vein with Lattice Trust (2017), while his first recording with his trio, This Stream (2019), dabbled in spots with straight-ahead post-bop jazz.

His latest trio release has the same lineup as on This Stream: Hubbard on drums and vibraphones, Kevin Jones on electric guitar, and Harley Magsino on acoustic bass.

Stylistically, it is a fitting extension of This Stream: Jazz infused, often with standard pop motifs—yet peppered with enough new ideas to populate a dozen albums by almost any other composer and performer.

Magsino does a lovely job of playing lead in numerous passages—or trading leads with guitarist Jones—while still assisting Hubbard on the rhythm, reminding not a little of Rob Wasserman’s playing on his Duets and Trios albums. Possessed of a big, fat sound on his bass, Magsino is equally at home out front or stepping back to set the table for Jones.

Jones has a rich tone on guitar, and his solos are always tasteful and imaginative, and he can change gears seamlessly.

Hubbard shows he has as solid a set of chops on the kit as any more straight-ahead drummer on “Sometimes All We Have Is Us,” a solo track that’s got nothing to do with Buddy Rich-styled showing off and everything to do with playing a song’s melody on a drum kit.

Another highlight is Leonard Patton’s guest vocal on “Stayed Too Long at the Fair,” with the trio showing a deft touch at framing a featured singer. Jones’ accompaniment on guitar is as supportive as any pianist could be, while Magsino and Hubbard swing ever so softly behind them. Jones and Magsino each take a thoughtful solo before Patton returns to close out the final verse. And the melody? An instant classic—it could fit in comfortably in any collection of the Great American Songbook.

The trio closes out this set with a nod toward surf rock on “Be Good to Your Demon Set.” Hubbard backs Jones and Magsino’s turns out front on both drums and vibes, giving it an even more tropical feel.

The other tracks range from the fusion of “Strangers with Shared Memories” to the post-bop of “This Stream” and “2nd Spring.”

 

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