GhostdanceProbably best-known around town as the rock-solid, hard-driving bassist of the ebullient Sonny Knight & The Lakers, Casey O’Brien is an improvising jazz man at heart. He proves it on a spare and beautiful new trio release called, “Ghost Dance,” co-starring the simpatico drummer, Davu Seru, and Fantastic Merlins saxophonist, Nathan Hanson. The often folksy-sounding, accessible “Ghost Dance” truly seduces the listener. It should find favor with fans of world jazz heroes Don Cherry, David Bond, and Yusef Lateef, also with older listeners hip to the Jimmy Giuffre 3, and with young hometown fans of Happy Apple’s gentler, more contemplative tracks. “Ghost Dance” is a low-key gem.

Tom SurowiczVita.MN

Ghostdance“One of the best surprises of the year came in December, when bassist Casey O’Brien announced a new recording that includes Nathan Hanson on saxophones and Davu Seru on drums.On “Ghost Dance,” the trio performs eight original compositions by O’Brien, the house bass player for the soul and R&B label Secret Stash. On the album’s moody and flowing tracks, the musicians produce sounds that dance in the air.”

David Cazares –

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Ghostdance“Because this came as such a sweet end-of-year surprise. It almost didn’t make the list; I learned about it second-hand and listened at the last possible minute. (It wasn’t officially available until December 14. The CD release is set for January 5 at Icehouse.) So glad I did, because it’s a beauty. O’Brien on bass, Nathan Hanson on saxophones and Davu Seru on drums play eight of O’Brien’s original compositions. This is music of seeking and finding, pensiveness, tenderness, and a spirituality reminiscent of Charles Lloyd. Even when the tempo speeds up, it takes its time.”

Pamela Espeland –


Casey O’Brien // Ghost Dance

Given his background and recent projects, as well as his cohorts on the new recording, it’s reasonable to expect the unexpected on Ghost Dance. Overall, the mood and collaborative interactions suggest ECM has set up a Minnesota outlet; the all-original music (written by O’Brien) flows like a series of incantations. The Gods must be pleased.

“Sawai” provides a brief opening with just bass and drums, as if an introduction to a dance suite. Even in the short span, Casey conjures guitar and bass with two distinct lines, perhaps using a looper. Nathan Hanson adds soprano sax to “Dayton,” melodically wandering but not aimlessly, rather truly exploring the terrain, which is largely gentle with some valleys created by O’Brien’s bass lines. “Ghost Dance Part 1” (separated from Part 2 by several tracks) is marked by a constant, bubbly bass vamp and alternating clicks and clangs from Seru. The composition is like an African folk dance; Hanson (on soprano) is a talented storyteller creating multiple voices, O’Brien unwavering, Seru the energy source. “Part Two” has a similar yet distinctive bass vamp covering a wider range of tones, creating a more ominous feel, a more urgent storyline with more assertive percussion. Hanson’s adventure kicks up more sonic (cosmic?) dust as if climbing a mountain, reaching a point where the Gods are closer, only to stop in awe, falling somewhere between Coltrane and Lloyd.

“2 Bells” is simply beautiful . Hanson (on tenor and maybe more) suggests Chris Potter’s most recent work. O’Brien’s solo creates bell tones against the gentle slapping of Seru’s brushes. A dark energetic bass introduces “Mpls,” with soprano sax singing atop what becomes a vamping bass in cahoots with the gentle tapdancing of drums. The  energy gradually builds, O’Brien taking over as rhythmic storyteller in multiple voices, closing with Hanson’s final prayer. “So” finds Hanson back on tenor, with more acrobatic lines from O’Brien, and you can visualize the elastic movements from Seru. The closing “Polyhistor” benefits from a steady bass and varied percussion effects over Hanson’s tenor. It’s a relatively lively work that feels like a spontaneous improvisation among three kindred spirits

Andrea CanterJazz Police
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