Joe Policastro Trio: Nothing Here Belongs

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Personnel: Joe Policastro: bass; Mikel Avery: drums; Dave Miller: guitar.

Title: Nothing Here Belongs

Record Label: Jerujazz Records

Year Released: 2019

Nothing Here Belongs is the first album of Joe Policastro Trio to focus primarily on original material. The three previous albums sold themselves with a pliable approach to covers. On 2013 West Side Story Suite, it was an expansive brush with Bernstein; with 2016 Pops!, the group tackled popular music; and through 2017 Screen Sounds, they visited songs of the silver screen. And now, the familiar largely recedes with this fourth album.

Policastro as well as their company don’t completely do away with covers when there are three of them here, for people that like to keep score, however, the bulk of this date looks somewhere else, focusing on the smart writing of the bassist and the interplay of his trio. “Speak Slow(ly)” witneses the band throwing in various twists and turns meanwhile placing its swing bona fides on display. “Bloodshot” puts the coolly pointed guitar of Dave Miller in contact with grooves which are loose and grounding at once. “In The Quiet” retains a reflective stance while Mikel Avery, the drummer, helps it change shape and shift gears. “Oceans Of Notions” presents this band’s catchiest lines in an upbeat atmosphere. With these things, the Joe Policastro Trio makes itself become a cohesive unit with an extraordinarily flexible mindset.

In this mix, the few covers create symmetry through their presence, with one serving as its centerpiece and two bookending the album. Moreover, they manage to open a window onto the sharp interpretive instincts or the trio. A take on “I’m On Fire” of Bruce Springsteen brings a quiet intensity into the whole picture and detours into a patch of reggae. At the album’s midpoint, “The Wandering Sea” bobs and bounds meanwhile hinting at the proto-surfer instrumental school of Santo & Johnny’s time. And finally, “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” brings an appropriate energy and tight focus to this Talking Heads classic. This band breathes and bends as one at every step of the way here.