New York based bassist, Michael Bates is a compelling example of a musician in the new millennium. He is a near virtuoso double bassist, visionary composer, bandleader, curator and educator who thrives in many musical worlds. With an eye to the future, his music draws from jazz, classical, world music, rock and blends them into a lyrical, visceral and cinematic style. For over two decades he has been performing cutting edge music and “simply put, Bates has the ability to make a huge impact on the existing state of modern jazz”– (Glenn Astarita). He has been called “a charismatic player who manages to navigate that most difficult and rarely traveled road leading to accessible experimentation… “(Chris Watson, “The View”).
His nine recordings: “Outside Sources”( 2004), “A Fine Balance” (2006), “Clockwise” (2008) and “Live in New York (2009)” and Acrobat (2011), “One From None” (2012), Automatic Vaudeville, (2013) Boom Crane (2014), Northern Spy (2015), Book Nine (2015) have been recorded for Greenleaf Music, Sunnyside Records, Fresh Sound New Talent, Between the Lines and Pommerac records. All been released to wide acclaim and publications such as Downbeat, Jazz Times, Jazzman, Double Bassist, Signal to Noise, Jazz Podium and many more have lauded him as an emerging innovator.
His latest recording, Northern Spy (Stereoscopic), was created in admiration of Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Blind Willie Johnson and John Coltrane. Recorded in a single day following a European tour, Northern Spy is a joyous snapshot of Bates’ current trio, Michael Blake on saxophone and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons. No edits, only first or second takes and an embodiment of the raw, live element of the trio.
“I’ve dreamt of this for a long time,” adds Bates. “Bean and Blake embody creative freedom and every time we play it’s different. The grooves get deeper; the band vibe stronger and above all, we have a blast. While I’d say even though the genre is a departure from my previous recordings, my compositional approach is still similar. And this time around the spare instrumentation allows us to go to move freely in and out of the forms.”
Featuring ten soulful and edgy tracks that veer happily between the blues, wide-open jazz and heavy grooves, Northern Spy opens with “Theme for a Blind Man,” a mysterious, droning invocation that nods to the great Blind Willie Johnson. Blake and Clemons each get a showpiece on the swinger “Roxy” and drum feature “Bean.” The 12/8 romp “Essex House” is inspired by Donny Hathaway, and “The End of History” is a meditation on the blues that builds into a ferocious moment of catharsis. For the centerpiece “An Otis Theme on Curtis Changes”, the Northern Spy trio imagines a melody Otis Redding might sing over a Curtis Mayfield-inspired groove.
Michael Bates started performing in hardcore punk bands in Vancouver, Canada and later turned to jazz and modern classical music. Bates relocated to New York City in 2002 and has since collaborated with Michael Blake, JD Allen, Tom Rainey, Chris Speed, Jeff Davis, Donny McCaslin, Greg Tardy, Russ Johnson, Joel Harrison, Ben Monder, Michael Sarin, Gerald Cleaver, Russ Lossing and Marty Ehrlich. He has performed on over 70 recordings as a sideman and has toured all over Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada. Michael also co-hosts an award-winning podcast “A Noise From the Deep” with trumpeter Dave Douglas, and as an educator, he has taught at the Banff Centre of the Arts, the AMR in Geneva, Switzerland and several universities worldwide.