Kindred spirits: Christian McBride,
John Patitucci, Stanley Clarke
Show: Friday at Strathmore. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 301-581-5100. www.strathmore.org. Show is sold out. Allison also leads a free master class at Strathmore on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Ben Allison is an acoustic bassist, but on his last two jazz albums, his arrangements have led him into a forest of electric guitars, knotty rhythms, borrowings from pop music and allusions to the hard sciences. His 2011 release, “Action-Refraction,” was a sextet date that reinterpreted Neil Young, Donny Hathaway, P.J. Harvey and Thelonious Monk.
For his new all-originals album, “The Stars Look Very Different Today,” Allison has let go the saxophonist and keyboardist, retained guitarists Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook and replaced one great drummer (Rudy Royston) with
another: Allison Miller.
The result is a quartet session that doubles down on Allison’s fusion obsessions — jazz-rock fusion and nuclear fusion. The collapse of the latter can result in a “Neutron Star,” which the composer tries to describe with overlapping mathematical motifs beneath Seabrook’s lyrical guitar solo. The quartet also references science on the pattern-driven “D.A.V.E. (Digital Awareness Vector Emulator)” and science fiction in the cinematic sound effects of “Dr. Zaius,” inspired by “Planet of the Apes.”
This all may sound geeky, but it’s redeemed by Allison’s unfailing melodicism and invention. And though the two guitarists dominate the foreground, it’s the strong rhythm playing by the two Allisons — Ben Allison and Allison Miller — that gives everything a unified momentum. And when Seabrook switches from guitar to banjo (“The Ballad of Joe Buck”) or laptop (“Improvisus”), the soundscape changes but not the feeling.