Das Vibenbass: Live at Tost in Seattle
As the ESPN maniacs put it, "That's a top 10 nominee.
The debut live concert download by the Das Vibenbass quartet is a marvel of modernistic jazz that, frankly, is a pain in der arsch to review since decent writers avoid clichés like "riveting "breathtaking and "astonishing. But since new postings are still mostly jam bands of highly variable quality, finding a first-rate group comparable with Jason Moran, John Scofield and Dave Holland means dragging out the lingo leash for the blurb beast.
Double bassist Geoff Larson and vibraphonist Justin Sorensen lead this Seattle-based group which, according to Sorensen's web site, "often includes guests and is sometimes a duo, (and) is a unique pairing of instruments. Together, the upright bass and vibraphone create a mood or effect rarely heard in today's modern music. They perform with numerous other regional groups, including a few together whose emphasis ranges from political hip-hop to acoustic folk to experimental (as Soup Of The Day they have a downloadable show of originals plus MMW and Doobie Brothers covers).
Tenor saxophonist Josh Clifford and drummer J.C. Bockman arguably are more likely to grab listeners initial attention during this 100-minute set of mostly original songs. On the opening "Beatrice Larson and Sorensen mix it up at the beginning in low-key Hollandesque fashion, but it's Clifford and Bockman who rock the house for most of the song with the hybrid jazz/fusion of performers such as Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman when they're at their most playful.
It's a pattern that holds true for much of the set. The only hang-up is Bockman stays in rock/fusion mode most of the show and, while always solid, sometimes is more notable for volume than variety.
Sorensen's vibes emerge strongly on the slow funky "Rising, with deliberative phrasing and dark tone shaping taking priority over speed and showmanship. He displays a similar preference on more up-tempo pieces such as "Downtown.
Larson displays a multitude of styles, plucking traditionally through the mournful "Theme For The Eulipions, groovin' on "Reference Check and classically bowing on the closing "Move On. But what's with Clifford stepping in on that last one with a rockish vamp that sounds inspired by Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love Of All?
A few pieces such as Scofield's "A Go Go possess the familiarity one expects from a popular cover tune, but mostly this feels like a casual gathering of talented players focusing on reaching out to their audience. Individual parts are more accessible than excessively challenging or revolutionary, but come together like magnets at .05 paces.
Recording quality is good overall, with just a bit of muddiness and a couple of feedback distortions and other mishaps. Larson could use a boost and Bockman a trim in the mix, but everyone is discernible. The variable bit-rate MP3 files total 150 MB in size.
Other modernistic mainstream groups may be performing or recording better material, but not many are giving it away. Das Vibenbass' decision to provide and allow audience taping of shows is a great boost for the world of online jazz and, while the field of quality material is getting more crowded, there's plenty here to make them worth revisiting when looking back on the year's favorite contributors.
Visit Justin Sorensen on the web.
Track listing: Intro; Beatrice; A Go Go; Reference Check; Theme For The Eulipions; Stomp; Downtown; Da Loop; Rising; Regret; Shh; A Muse For Me; Larsonius Thump; Move On
Personnel: Geoff Larson, double bass; Justin Sorensen, vibraphone; Josh Clifford, tenor sax; J.C. Bockman, drums