In the last two decades, New York bass player Scott Colley has backed jazz musicians including singer Carmen McRae, pianists Herbie Hancock and Fred Hersch, saxophonists Chris Potter and David Binney and drummers T.S. Monk and Antonio Sanchez. Colley also leads his own record dates.

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Colley's new album has a strong sense of place, even if it's one he's never visited.

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KEVIN WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's new album is called "Empire," named for a sod-house Kansas hamlet where his ancestors settled after the Civil War - not the Empire, Kansas, near Lake Kanopolis, but a short-lived community near McPherson on the prairie, abandoned in the 1870s when the railroad passed it by. Scott Colley's not from those parts, but his music fits the wide-open flatlands, where you can see the weather coming on. For extra rural twang, he's got Bill Frisell on bluesy country jazz guitar.

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WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's slow, singing bass there nods to his old teacher Charlie Haden, the Missouri bassist with a touch of the Ozarks in his sound. Colley's "Empire" is for various combinations of five musicians, including pianist Craig Taborn, known for rambunctious playing with James Carter, Tim Berne and Dave Douglas. In his solos here, Taborn catches the stillness of sparsely populated landscapes. He makes a few notes carry far. It's all in the touch and the timing, and quiet support from Brian Blade's drums.

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WHITEHEAD: This music's spine is made of wires and wood: the ringing tones of bass, piano and guitar. The lone horn player is trumpeter Ralph Alessi, whose pealing sound lends Copland-esque grandeur to the amber waves. He and Frisell stir things up a little, too, to make sure the music's not contemplative all the time.

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WHITEHEAD: Scott Colley's lyrical and catchy tunes bring "Empire" halfway home, but it's the players who complete the job; who breathe life into the frameworks he builds. This is heartland music born in Manhattan. Not Manhattan, Kansas -the other one.

DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead is a jazz columnist for eMusic.com. He reviewed "Empire," the new album by bassist Scott Colley on the CAM Jazz label.

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For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

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