Phil Boniface was a Canadian-based Kiwi when this was recorded – he may now be back ‘home’ as it were. BaixaBlue is an album of mostly original pieces composed by Boniface. His bass is mostly a gentle, coaxing element – never aiming to be a lead instrument, his compositions sing, for the most part thanks to the guitar work of Alvaro Rojas. When Boniface steps up to solo, as he does thoughtfully on West Coast Summer, it’s in the (correct) role as part of the rhythm section of this trio and occasional quartet (Tyson Naylor’s piano is a crucial component of Drum Dub, Portland Machin and, most overtly, Piano Dub, a strident reggae groove showcasing the ability of this band to initiate change-ups).
The word ‘thoughtful’ comes up again and again for me when listening to this album – the two covers here seem well plotted and placed. First of all The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Breaking The Girl is given a Frisell-like treatment by Rojas, Joel Fountain’s drums taking this arrangement toward jazz as his brushes provide a soft-shoe shuffle-like pulse.
And Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th, now recognised for its use in TV ads and films and for its sampling by Kanye West, is here transliterated essentially, taken away from its endearingly wonky toy-piano melody and stated on the guitar. The phrasing is calm and the decision to play is straight, groove-wise, gives it even more of the stately-ballad feel. It is always on the verge of ‘rocking out’ but never topples over. Rojas’ guitar bubbles away and the end result is that the tune feels as familiar as many standards. Praise not merely for the composition but for its handling here.
Boniface’s music can be lively and thriving, The Mind Is A Monkey allows all three players ample chance to shine without it ever seeming too busy. And the closing Waltz for Ollie takes us back to the tranquillity of a nearly Hawaiian-styled guitar with sashaying brushes and a wee saunter of bass.
A fine set of tunes that I’ve really been digging.