Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dave HOLLAND & Barre PHILLIPS - Music From Two Basses 1971 (REPOST)

Dave HOLLAND & Barre Phillips - Music From Two Basses 1971 (REPOST)
Label: Ecm
Audio CD: (August 30, 2005)


Even back in 1971 the idea of a set of improvised bass duos wasn't much of a commercial proposition. But that didn't stop Manfred Eicher from bringing two of the jazz scene's most creativebassists together for the 11th release on his ECMlabel.

In 1968 American bassist Barre Phillips had recorded Journal Violone, which had the dual distinction of not only being the first 'jazz' solo bass recording, but also the first album of solo free improvisation. By 1971 Phillips had joined John Surman and Stu Martin in The Trio (previous employers had ranged from Archie Shepp to Leonard Bernstein to Jimmy Guiffre).

Meanwhile English bassist Dave Holland had ended his tenure with Miles Davis, hung up his electric bass and was exploring the outer reaches of free jazz with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton in Circle, when Eicher suggested that he team up with Phillips in the studio.

I'm not sure if Music From Two Basses was the first recording of bass duets, but it's got to be close. Not that it matters that much; this is way more than merehistorical document. On the opening brace of improvised pieces, Holland and Phillips reveal themselves both as masterplayersand (more importantly)master listeners. After five and a half minutes of cheerfully violent exploratory jousting, Phillips picks at a mournful chordal figure while Holland solos; they swap roles a couple of times, then trail off into silence.

The second piece is more episodic, crammed full of sudden shifts from arco drones to fingerbusting pizzicato to cascades of harmonics or percussive scrabbling. At one point I started to imagine that Phillips' bass must have been stuffed with rodents gnawing their way out. But don't worry;there's still melody, tenderness and a ready supply of wit on display.

The shorter pieces that round off the record are no less involving; "Beans" is a bleak dronescape of buzzes and ghostly harmonics, "Raindrops" a study fora shower of tinypizzicato sounds. "Just a Whisper" builds from nothing to a furious dialogue of creaks, squeaks and scrapes, while "Song for Clare" ends things on a delicate note, soured only by Phillips' woozy arco.

This is a fine record by two masters of the instrument. It's also a reminder of how important ECM was to the birth of a creative, European basedimprovised music. Forget the old gag about how no-one can keep quiet during a bass solo, this is essential stuff for lovers of the low end.
By Peter Marsh.
Dave Holland- Bass, Violoncello
Barre Phillips- Bass
01.Improvised Piece I  10.33
02.Improvised Piece II  7.46
03.Beans  3.10
04.Raindrops  4.13
05.May be I can sing it for you  1.48
06.Just a Whisper  4.57
07.Song for Clare  4.53

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