Mike Downes – The Way in (ENG review)

Street Date – March 1st 2024
Mike Downes – The Way in (ENG review)

There are albums that leave a mark on you from the very first track, leaving a familiar imprint, and that’s what happens with this album. Mike Downes, a composer and double bassist, has a serious melodic sense and offers particularly luxurious and well-thought-out arrangements here. The album follows a progression of 12 tracks that I would describe as 12 paintings. Recognized as a deeply musical bassist with a sharp melodic sense, Mike Downes, a composer, arranger, and bassist based in Toronto, has released several acclaimed recordings that have won awards in a variety of lineups: from bass solo to trio, and from quartet to an 11-piece ensemble. The great guitarist Pat Metheny has called Downes “one of my favorite bassists.” With The Way In, Downes presents his first recording as a piano, guitar, and bass trio, featuring his long-time musical collaborators Robi Botos and Ted Quinlan, as well as extraordinary guest percussionists Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo and Davide Di Renzo, who appear on five tracks.
It’s not surprising that Pat Metheny speaks highly of this artist because both share a sense of detail in meter and harmony. Mike Downes, offering beautiful landscapes to his fellow musicians here, undoubtedly provokes, at times, a form of contemplation for the listener. Elegance exists in music, and that’s the case with every track on this well-thought-out album, which provides both listening pleasure and intellectual stimulation. The Way In highlights the immense musicality of the core trio. “We have a very deep connection from years of playing together. I wanted to approach this album from a chamber music perspective while showcasing the improvisational brilliance of each musician,” notes Downes. “I have written a lot of arrangements for large ensembles recently, including a symphony orchestra, and I thought it would be intriguing to distill these composition techniques and orchestration aesthetics into a drummer-less trio setting, where all the subtleties are in the foreground, and the music breathes in a different way.”
And that is certainly the key point of this album: a deep sense of arrangement between the instruments, giving them a dialogue at a very high level without ever leaving the listener behind. Thanks to an incomparable sense of melodic art, even the double bass solos are written in this way. One feels small in front of such work and inevitably very respectful. In some ways, this album reminds me of certain albums by guitarist Ulf Wakenius, which also aimed to offer the best. The jazz tradition has a rich history of drummer-less trios: the first Ahmad Jamal Trio (including Chamber Music of the New Jazz); the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis; the Nat King Cole Trio; the Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride/Stephen Scott Trio; all of these, and many others, served as inspiration when creating The Way In.
You will find this album on Bayou Blue Radio on February 18 at midnight Texas time because we can’t wait to share it with you, knowing that all our listeners are art enthusiasts, of an art like this that discreetly knows how to become indispensable.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 8th 2024


To buy this album


Track Listing:
Gratitude 4:56
The Way In 5:45
Monumental 3:45
Banff Nights
Before the Unknown 1:14
Disbelief 5:04
Call of the Sea 4:57
Crimson 5:09
Whisper 5:56
Portals 4:49
Sirilessly 4:10
Beautiful Lie (Ted Quinlan) 5:25

Mike Downes – bass
Robi Botos – piano & keyboards
Ted Quinlan – electric & acoustic guitars
Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo – cajón/percussion on tracks 01 & 04
Davide Di Renzo – percussion on tracks 03, 08 & 11

All compositions by Mike Downes (SOCAN) except Beautiful Lie by Ted Quinlan
Recorded June, 2023 at Humber College Studio, Toronto, Canada
Recorded and mixed by Andrew Mullin
Assistant engineer Ryan McNabb
Edited by Matt Greenwood
Mastered by Reuben Ghose at Mojito Mastering
Produced by Mike Downes
Photography by Sanja Antic
Graphic design by YuGoGirl Design