In May 2002, German bassist Peter Kowald played a remarkable duet with William Parker at the Victo Festival in Canada. Sadly, Kowald would pass away a short four months later; posthumously, a slew of new recordings with or for him have been released.
One year after, also at Victo, a feschrift was performed by four of the world's most advanced upright players (all who played with or owed a debt to Kowald): Barre Phillips, considered the father of extended technique; Joëlle Léandre who shared a stylistic approach to arco; William Parker, who was with him at the time of his passing; and Tetsu Saitoh (subbing for an indisposed Barry Guy), who while not recording with Kowald, is one of his stylistic heirs. The enclave of bassists is a tight one, particularly the free improvising camp who work harder than most musicians to be appreciated as artistic. After You Gone is a stirring performance, a maelstrom of violent arco, full of pathos for a fallen colleague.
For the unitiated, a bass quartet, even as a tribute, may be uneasily digested. But the form has a rich history. Phillips is acknowledged as the first bassist to record in an extended solo format (1968's Journal Violone ). Other bassists had preceded him as technical innovators on the instrument (Francois Rabbath and Bertram Turetzky), and truth be told, Journal Violone was a happy accident. Its effect though was substantial, setting the stage for bassists like Guy, Léandre, Kowald, Kent Carter, Mark Dresser and many others to become compelling solo musicians.
Dave Holland/Barre Phillips
Music From Two Basses
After a few years of recording in Europe with mainly British musicians, Phillips made his debut in 1971 for the fledgling ECM label in tow with another, at that time incandescing, bassist in Dave Holland. Holland, who had just finished his tenure with Miles Davis had premiered on ECM two albums prior as a member of the trio Circle. Now a linchpin in the ECM artist roster, with thirty album appearances, at the time he was squarely back into his avant-garde roots.
What distinguishes Music From Two Basses from After You Gone is intent. The earlier album is an attempt to bring the bass forward as a solo instrument, replete with a set of varied techniques-bowing, plucking, strumming, percussive slapping, harmonics. With two bassists complementing each other, the music can be as rich as any other duet combination. In what is a compliment-turned-cliché, the improvised pieces on the album sound composed and some of the composed pieces sound improvised. There are even two absolutely lovely ballads. The improvised pieces are short enough, under eleven minutes, to marvel at their technique and empathetic logic without losing impact by going on too long.
Phillips' appearance at this year Vision Festival Peter Kowald Tribute, directly before the bass quartet of William Parker, Henry Grimes, Sirone and Alan Silva, continues the voyage begun in 1968 with his solo record, continuing with his landmark duo with Dave Holland and continuing most recently with the tribute to the silenced strings of Kowald.
After You Gone
Tracks: 1. Ant Earps (10:49) 2. Passing Threw (10:28) 3. Whoop Yer Tal (14:02) 4. Teebay Deep (11:00) 5. Bleu Grek (10:39) 6. P.S. -Te Queremos (6:41)
Personnel: Barre Phillips, Joëlle Léandre, William Parker, and Tetsu Saitoh: bass.
Music From Two Basses
Tracks: 1. Improvised Piece I (10:33) 2. Improvised Piece II (7:46) 3. Beans (3:10) 4. Raindrops (4:13) 5. May Be I Can Sing It for You (1:48) 6. Just a Whisper (4:57) 7. Song for Clare (4:52)
Personnel: Dave Holland and Barre Phillips: bass.
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