Bond sticks to melody, spirituality

By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | February 25, 2005

David Bond's career in jazz was inspired by listening to a pair of John Coltrane albums while a senior at Bradley University in the mid-1970s.

''I originally was in political science in college, but I had always played the saxophone," explains Bond from his Back Bay apartment. ''And then I heard Coltrane's 'Kulu Se Mama' and 'Transition' recordings when I was in college. I was kind of floundering for what I was going to do for a job or a career, and I heard those two things, and I said, 'That's it.' "

Bond has been writing, performing, and recording music heavy on melody and spirituality ever since. He'll perform with his current sextet at the Regattabar Wednesday. The lineup includes: Bond on alto and soprano saxes; Stan Strickland on tenor and soprano saxes; Bill Lowe, trombone; Pierre Hurel, piano; Wes Brown, bass; and Luther Gray on drums.

In retrospect, Bond says it was the spiritual side of those Coltrane albums -- made in the mid-'60s, as the saxophone great was moving from the more familiar realms of bebop and modal jazz to cacophonous free-jazz explorations -- that captivated him.

''It just struck a chord in the sense that it was so open and strong and honest and positive," he recalls. ''I'm sure at the time, I didn't really think of it as spiritual, but I do now."

Bond's music has a spiritual feel to it, too. His only CD still in print, a quartet date released early last year, is titled ''The Spirit Speaks," and that side of the music has grown even more pronounced since his group has been reconfigured with the two extra horns.

''What I'm trying to do is have different melodies happening at the same time," Bond says. ''So even if I'm playing a lead melody the other horns have a chance to play countermelodies or interweave improvising around that."

At times, the group achieves a choral effect. ''The music is open enough and expressive enough where we reach certain peaks . . . kind of in this zone where we've soared above the music," Bond says. ''It's like we're all singing and rejoicing at the same time."

Still, there's a gentleness and tranquility to Bond's music not generally associated with free jazz. Those qualities, and Bond's emphasis on melody and group interplay, remind some of Charles Lloyd's groundbreaking work of the mid-'60s.

Bond's love of melody drew him to his mentors -- Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef in Western Massachusetts, Dewey Redman and Lee Kontiz later on in New York -- and continues to guide his composing and improvising today.

''I consider myself a melodist," he says. ''I'm much more interested in melody and exploring that approach, to either standard compositions or original compositions, and go at it from that point of view more than a harmonic approach. Which is why I gravitated toward these players [as teachers], because all four are melodists."

And these teachers all had a philosophical lesson to impart.

''The common link," Bond says, ''is that the sound is the most important thing: your personal voice and your personal sound. All of them are very consistent and strong believers in that being primary, and everything else will follow. Because having all the chops in the world doesn't mean anything if it's not coming from your own voice and your own sound."

Whatever spirituality there is in Bond's music comes from him heeding that advice.

''It all comes from the spirit somehow," he says. ''Music can be called a religion or whatever, but I'm not really approaching it that way. I'm just trying to be open and honest, and coming from my own voice and soul and spirit and heart.

''And I'm fortunate enough to be connected with these other players that seem to be coming from the same place and respond to that and add to it."

The David Bond Group will perform at the Regattabar Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. $12. Call 617-395-7757.