Bassist/composer Zack Nestel-Patt describes his debut album, River Run, as having “the sensibilities of an indie rock album” while still rooted in jazz elements and the “tradition of improvised music”. It’s a succinct, but accurate descriptor of his work. River Run has the jumble of the avant-garde with the gentle temperance and focus one would hear from Bon Iver or Grizzly Bear. Altogether, there’s something particular here, something special, something that allows for grandiosity for a trio led from a bassist’s big ideas.
As much as one can appreciate these songs’ relatively slow builds, woven arrangements, and infectious energy, it really comes together because this group is pulling it all off so well. River Run has a not so simple trio of Nestel-Patt on bass and synthesizers, Kenji Herbert on guitar, and Jonathan Pinson on drums. With Nestel-Patt’s range on the synths added to Herbert’s spectacular guitar work and Pinson’s very snappy drumming, there’s something very cool going on here, somewhat akin to Matt Mayhall’s Tropes album of last year, an equally ambitious but economic with time and expression.
More than how gripping these songs are is their ability to leave the listener wanting more. There’s something economic an album of ten songs where only one of them, “Dew”, barely even approaches seven minutes in length, while much of them album are full of curiously quick journeys that average around three minutes. It’s an achievement in composition to make an album with so much tension feel so loose and do make it do so with such adeptness and speed. “Wanderer” has a feel like little else here and is definitely a highlight– snappy, jostling, minor in a major way. Songs like “Slip Memory” or “Pulsar” are those quick journeys that take the listener on a ride so fast, one wonders how one travelled so far and is ready and raring to take the ride again.
River Run is a surprising triumph of an album. It’s small, neat, and does so much with it. If this is where Zack Nestel-Patt is starting, it’ll be interesting to see where he’ll go next.
River Run, the debut album from bassist Zach Nestel-Patt, is out now.
Zack Nestel-Patt – compositions, bass, and synthesizers
Kenji Herbert – guitar
Jonathan Pinson – drums
Produced by Charlie Van Kirk and Zack Nestel-Patt
Engineered and mixed by Charlie Van Kirk
Mastered by Kevin Reeves
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.