An exceptional bassist with a large tone and an advanced style, Michael Oien has been an important part of the jazz scene in New York since graduating from Berklee in 2004. And Now is his recording debut as a leader. Featured along with the bassist is guitarist Matthew Stevens, altoist Nick Videen, pianist Jamie Reynolds and drummer Eric Doob.While Oien’s bass is important in the ensemble and he takes some fine solos along the way, just as significant are his very original and often thoughtful compositions. With the exception of the closing folk song “All My Trials,” all of the material is his. And Now begins with the picturesque “In The Early Autumn,” a melodic piece that features close interplay by piano, guitar and bass. The cinematic mood fits the title. “Skol” has altoist Videen and drummer Doob taking fiery solos. Guest tenor-saxophonist Travis Laplante sits in during the melody statements of “Mad To Live.” The versatile Stevens takes a rockish guitar solo on “Mad To Live” that is much different in tone and style than his playing on “In The Early Autumn.”
“Ask Anyone,” as with many of these pieces, has a lyrical melody that is both unpredictable and ultimately logical. Both “Ask Anyone” and the following “Smile This Mile” create an introspective yet quietly passionate atmosphere that is worthy of the better ECM recordings along with an attractive yet distinctive group sound.
“Dreamer” is a three-part work. “Part I” is a ballad featuring Oien’s powerful bass along with some emotional playing by Videen. The groove on “Part II” inspires Videen’s strongest playing of the project, an intense exploration that is a little reminiscent of late-period Art Pepper. It leads to the celebratory “Part III.” The thought-provoking set concludes with Oien’s unaccompanied bass solo on “All My Trials.”