Bassist Billy Mohler is gearing up to release what is sure to be one of the best jazz albums of the year with his sophomore solo album Anatomy. Classic in style and unconventional in approach, Mohler is joined by tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, trumpeter Shane Endsley and drummer Nate Wood on the new record and the result is electrifying.
Bass-centric at its core, each track features the improvisation-fueled composition work of Mohler at his finest, and the album’s first single “Nightfall” exhibits this beautifully.
“A city in motion, colorful, tireless energy that is a constant source of inspiration. New York encompasses this feeling to me and was the inspiration for Nightfall,” explains Mohler. “As for the intention of the video, I wanted to see abstract imagery that played into the rhythm of the song, in black and white. Fried Animation took these ideas and brought them to life. “
Mohler’s 2019 debut Focus, hailed by Nextbop.com as “an incredibly free, unconstrained and inventive record filled with exciting twists and turns and constant detours,” marked the auspicious start of an exploratory new quartet led by one of LA’s most accomplished musicians. The quartet featured a cohort of Mohler’s close friends who happen to be jazz heavyweights: tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, trumpeter Shane Endsley and drummer Nate Wood. So inspired by the Focus session was Mohler that he wrote the material for the follow-up, Anatomy, right away. Now that fiery, sonically inventive sophomore effort is here, capturing a lineup with deeply intertwined personal and musical histories that continue to ripen and evolve.
“I’ve always loved chordless quartets or trios,” says Mohler of the band’s format with no chordal accompanying instrument (e.g., piano or guitar). “It’s a very liberating configuration, that naturally provides space within the music.” Anatomy brings that kind of loose, raw, indeterminate band chemistry to the fore, but adds a new sonic dimension to the improvisations as well. You can hear it at times during Speed’s tenor flights, or in the ghostly echoes lurking around Endsley’s angular solos: the sound of post-production effects, implemented by Mohler and producer Dan Seeff in the most organic, artistic way.
“Each horn player’s effects track was performed live,” Mohler explains. “On Chris’s solos, for instance, Dan and I would ‘play’ the Echoplex effect to the solo live. We wanted the efx tracks to enhance the performances, and build upon the lines that Chris and Shane played. We did this kind of thing on Focus but we hinted at it and kept it very, very back in the mix. For Anatomy we wanted to let it out a little more. It was a conscious effort that Dan and I took, to make the album unique and give it a voice.”
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Mohler attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as one of only five students, studying with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and other luminaries. Along with his jazz credentials, he has amassed wide-ranging credits in the pop world as a session bassist, producer and songwriter, working with Dolly Parton, Macy Gray, Lady Gaga, Nile Rogers, Sia, Mavis Staples, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Tyler, Jon Brion and a host of others.
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