Terry Plumeri


The Washington Post Review of Water Garden by Richard Harrington

Terry Plumeri's Water Garden

Plumeri is one of the most highly regarded young bass players in America: He is equally at home with jazz and classical bass and frequently performs with the National Symphony.

In fact, the National Symphony String Quartet is featured on this album, along with nationally recognized guitarists John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner and Plumeri's constant local companions, drummer Mike Smith and pianist Marc Cohen.

There are two things that allow "Water Garden" to rise head and shoulders above most other recent jazz offerings. The most immediate is the sterling quality of the recording (done at Bias in Falls Church), with immaculate attention paid to highs and lows and featuring a clearly empathetic mix. It is a quality equivalent to Manfred Eicher's work at ECM; Bill McElroy's engineering, already highly praised in local music circles, has never been better.

The second distinctive quality in Plumeri's work is his obvious dedication to composition. With exceptions like Ellington and Mingus, most composers working in the jazz idiom do little more than delineate melodies or sets of changes, leaving the hard work to capable soloists. Plumeri is more intense and in control; he builds carefully, leaving some breathing room but always certain of his voicings and shadings, always definite in his intentions.

For example, "Bornless One," the opening composition, is built upon Micheal Smith's marvelously fluid and rhythmic kalimba, an African thumb piano. Behind this celebration, Plumeri and Cohen set down sparse, mostly percussive, rather than melodic, statements. In addition, Plumeri's wordless vocals, mixed way back, give the piece an eerie, ghostly effect, it is a stunning cut one that a listener is drawn back to time and time again.

On several numbers, including the title cut, Plumeri accents his bowed-bass technique, eloquent in establishing a plaintive or contemplative mood. "Water Garden moves from a tightly defined structure to some spirited free playing and eventually into a straightahead jazz mode, complete with walking bass line. "Laura Rose," which could almost be a sound track, plays the ethereal acoustic guitar of Ralph Towner against John Abercrombie's electric, but unusual subtle voicings.

Plumeri, both as a composer and player, never overextends his abilities or overpowers with mere technique. The constantly empathetic work of his players - all of whom obviously understand his intentions - leads to a very high level of music all around.

Richard Harrington
Washington Post


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