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William Shakespeare, from Stratford, identified seven ages of Man, from puking to mere oblivion. Clever chap, although his songwriting was a bit rubbish. Bassist Myles Weeks, from Baton Rouge, has his own ideas about those seven ages. He brings them to life on his marvellous debut album, Sense Of Self.
Weeks, now resident in New Orleans, calls Sense Of Self "a birth through death themed suite of music." Weeks is a bassist with real energy, a wide emotional range and an obvious love for the arco approach to playing. He's joined by two more New Orleans musicians, Joe Ashlar
. The choice of keyboard is inspiredAshlar's light, bright Rhodes is the perfect foil for Weeks' deep, dark, bass sound. Lott takes on the middle ground, anchoring the rhythms and adding his own distinctively funky phrases.
Sense Of Self starts its life-long journey with "Delivery"the final moments before baby Weeks emerges into the light. Lott's jangling percussion signals the confusion of birth before a female voice sings gently "Miles-y." Weeks signals his emergence with a tough, staccato, bass line before Ashlar's Rhodes lightens things up. The "Tea Kettle" whistles before Ashlar's bright, sparky, melody takes over. The first appearance of Weeks' arco playing is brief but immediately engaging. The instrument is right at the front of the mix, the rough-edged sound coming through loud and clear. His later, pizzicato, solo displays strength and precisionthis is an exciting musician at work.
"Contrary To Popular Belief" might well mark Weeks' current place on the lifespan. It's a comparatively relaxed, thoughtful, meditation on youth, its gentle tempo and Lott's loose, laid-back drums forming a foundation for Weeks and Ashlar's solos.
The remaining tunes are, presumably, Weeks' ideas about the future. "Regrets" is a darkly beautiful, not especially optimistic, view of life in late-youth or early middle-age. There's turmoil and tension here, a fear, perhaps, that life might not turn out quite as plannedWeeks' scraping arco bass riff steers things perilously close to Psycho's shower scene. The tune closes with a second female voice, cautioning "Myles, you need to be a better person."
"Golden" is wonderfully weird. Opening with Weeks' tough, discordant, bass riff it threatens to be even darker than "Regrets" then Ashlar's relentlessly positive Rhodes springs forth. The tune leaps back and forth between cheer and mystery, thanks especially to some of the scariest laughter ever consigned to a jazz album. The title of "Dementia" suggests that Weeks' view of old age is similarly downbeat but the tune is pretty and gentle for the most part.
"Passing" is lovely, shifting between Ashlar's crystalline melody and Weeks' melancholy bass lines as Shakespeare's "mere oblivion" approaches. It closes with the joyous sound of children playing and then, almost imperceptibly, one last breath. The exhalation brings Sense Of Self to its end, but hopefully this quite remarkable debut is just the beginning for Weeks. As Shakespeare himself might suggest, play on.
Track Listing: Delivery; Tea Kettle; Contrary To Popular Belief; Regrets; Golden;
Personnel: Myles Weeks: double bass; Joe Ashlar: Fender Rhodes; Simon Lott; drums.
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