Toronto-based bassist, composer and arranger Mike Downes is set to release The Way In, his eighth album as a leader.

Downes has previously released a number of award-winning recordings for a variety of instrumentations, including solo, trio, quartet and 11-piece ensemble.

The Way In is Downes’s first recording for piano, guitar and bass trio. It features his longtime musical collaborators Robi Botos and Ted Quinlan, alongside guest percussionists Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo and Davide DiRenzo who appear on five of the 12 pieces.

The recording showcases the collective musicality of the core trio.

“We have a deep, deep connection from years of playing together,” says Downes. “I wanted to approach this album from a chamber music perspective while showcasing the improvisational brilliance of each musician. I’ve been writing a lot of arrangements for large ensemble lately, including symphony orchestra, and I thought it would be intriguing to distill those compositional techniques and orchestration aesthetics to a drummer-less trio setting, where all of the nuances are front and centre and the music breathes in a different way.”

The album follows in the footsteps of a rich history of drummer-less trios in the jazz tradition, drawing inspiration from the early Ahmad Jamal Trio, the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, the Nat King Cole trio, and the Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride/Stephen Scott Trio.

Downes has been a prominent fixture of the Canadian and international jazz scenes for years. He has performed with Canada’s top jazz musicians such as Molly Johnson, Lorne Lofsky, Don Thompson, Kirk MacDonald, Robi Botos and Pat LaBarbera, and he has shared the stage with international artists Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Peter Erskine, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Dave Liebman, and many others. Downes’s recording catalogue includes seven albums as a leader, more than 70 albums as a side musician, and even more as a composer, arranger and producer.

“I’m incredibly proud of where I’ve landed as a composer and of the profound musical connections that are evident in this album,” Downes says. “I feel it’s my best work to date.”

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Gratitude
  2. The Way In
  3. Monumental
  4. Banff Nights
  5. Before the Unknown
  6. Disbelief
  7. Call of the Sea
  8. Crimson
  9. Whisper
  10. Portals
  11. Sirilessly
  12. Beautiful Lie

Mike Downes’s The Way In is out March 1, 2024.