Double Bass is a showcase for the jazz and free music skills of Oslo-based Håker Flaten. With 40 CDs to his credit, he may be a Scandinavian version of Ron Carter: his breadth of experience includes jazz, improv, electronica and fusion, with leaders ranging from the cerebral American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to Finnish metal-jazz guitarist Raoul Björkenheim.
Almost from the first track Håker Flaten references the type of woody, subterranean plucks in his playing that go back to the slap-bass technique of New Orleans' Pops Foster. Furthermore, on "Cats & Dogs" he buzzes his strings like a more contemporary Charlie Haden or Oscar Pettiford, and among his tugging and pulling and echoing sounds, he creates a dialogue between higher and lower pitched strings. With most of the pieces in the two-minute plus range, though, with a couple of exceptions, he confines his output to single explorations per track. "Babylon," mostly confining itself with the highest parts of the neck, making it appear that he's playing Scruggs-style banjo rather than bass.
He even gets his strings to "talk" for a while until the coda of deep bass notes. Buzzing tones that emanate from the bull fiddle on "The Joy of German Bowing II," which sound like a combination of racing car acceleration and a moving band saw, could as easily come from a synthesizer or a mixing board. "Ggahmeshu" is a speed merchant display of plucking and pulling triple and quadruple stopping that include further vibrations produced by horizontally inserting a stick between the strings. Finally, "Uluv Uluv" features an aviary attack of multistring bowing and door opening sounds, as if the high-pitched heaving and waving result comes from a violin and viola duo, rather than a bass.
Håker Flaten's tour de force, at just over 12 minutes, is entitled "Swedish Impressions." Un-Scandinavian to the extreme, the echoing thunks at the top appear to be the mewling cries of a small animal or small child. And when the tone gets louder and more insistent, it's as if he's mixing a glottal Eastern European keen with Asian lamentation. Before the horizontally inserted stick is reverberated percussively for bottom tones, hid higher-pitched strident slices sound more like the asymmetric sawing of fiddler Billy Bang than what you'd expect from any bass player.
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