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Nothing Here Belongs, a fitting name for an eclectic album, is the fourth release by the Joe Policastro Trio. The bassist-arranger-composer, who is based in Chicago, has gained a reputation for colorfully remaking and transforming a variety of unlikely material. In 2013, when his trio included guitarist Dan Effland and drummer Adam Sorensen, he recorded West Side Story Suite. With his current musical partners, guitarist Dave Miller and bassist Mikel Avery, he recorded Pops!, a collection of pop and rock tunes, and Screen Sounds, interpretations of movie and TV themes.
This release differs from the others in that, in addition to reads of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” (which is turned into a countryish jazz piece), Santo & Johnny’s “The Wandering Sea” and Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place,” Policastro contributed six originals. Ironically, the bassist’s compositions, which are given unpredictable and sometimes eccentric arrangements, sound as if they could have been pop tunes that the trio decided to turn into jazz.
The Joe Policastro Trio plays three times a week at Pops for Champagne in Chicago, in addition to going out on tours. Their familiarity with one another’s playing and this material is a necessity, as these are not exactly jam-session songs. Guitarist Miller, in particular, displays quite a bit of versatility, going from Nashville-type playing on “I’m on Fire,” to conjuring John Scofield on the bluesy “Bloodshot” and early Bill Frisell on “The Wandering Star,” to sounding boppish on “Speak Slow(ly),” then switching to a more folkish sound on “Plain Song.”
Policastro, who holds the music together without letting it become too comfortable, contributes some solos but mostly excels at his interactions with the guitarist. Drummer Avery is subtle while catching every tempo and groove change. Each listen to Nothing Here Belongs reveals more surprises. — Scott Yanow
Featured photo by Connie Ward.