Look away from Luke Stewart’s orbit for a minute and something will get missed. The DC bassist and composer is an incontrovertible force with boundless energy and creativity. In this fantastic trio with the legendary Chad Taylor on drums and stellar saxophonist Brian Settles. As a trio, there’s a flow to The Bottom that is like being carried on a current that’s simultaneously relaxed and quick. From the opening mbira-driven hypnosis of “Reminiscince” until the final drops of the scenic tones of “Dream House,” the Silt Trio is in motion.
Early on the tight interplay between Stewart, Taylor, and Settles is in tune. “Reminiscince” is light on its feet with Taylor and Stewart building a gossamer sonic architecture from the interwoven strands of bass and mbira. From a distance, it feels fragile, but the reality is these two move so close in connection with one another that these tight, mesmerizing grooves are rock solid. Settles takes the opportunity to grease the wheels and light it up with stirring solos. The energy carries into “Roots” with Stewart’s catchy bassline bouncing across Taylor’s technical rhythms. These two are so dialed into each other’s movements and Settles’ relaxed runs are the perfect foil. Together, it’s infectious.
All three artists impose their own voice on The Bottom, but it’s the cohesiveness that shines through. The title track slinks through darkened streets on strong bones, Taylor tiptoeing around each corner like the star in a spy movie while Stewart bends notes into the cracks. There’s a vibrancy to how these three play together, a languid joy that shines through every section. Even in the blazes, like the short blast of “Corners,” it sounds like three close friends pushing each other, cracking jokes, and having a damn good time. It’s tight and free at the same time.
This unexpected trio is such a treat and I only hope future sessions are planned. Stewart’s repertoire continues to grow and he’s right on the page with stalwarts like Settles and Taylor. The Bottom is a stellar new chapter for all three musicians and when these different worlds collide, it’s the birth of something new.