Joe Fonda's sole solo excursion from 1999 demonstrates a degree of maturity in concept and execution that marks it as a unique high point in his oeuvre to date. On When It's Time,
Fonda approaches mostly original tunes with a melodic focus, accompanied by ever-present vocalizations. (Listeners with a phobia of humming and moaning take notice.) The recording has a warm, full-bodied sound which captures nuance and detail. While the core of these acoustic bass improvisations tend to rely on a head-solo-head type of strucutre, the definitive aspect of the recording is the way the bassist subverts structure and arrives at unexpected stopping points along the way. Fonda remains open to the groove (eg. "The Other Side of Things") but his intermittent swing generally capitulates to metric redefinition as he pauses to reflect or rushes into new ideas.
On When It's Time, Fonda generally prefers a clean single-note plucking approach, though at times he explores arco passages, double-stops, and extended technique (eg. "Been There Before"). He mostly leaves harmony open, avoiding what he would term a "literal" interpretation of the music. However, he also avoids the outright explosive tension which characterizes William Parker's solo work, for exampletending toward a more introspective and understated approach. At times one can pick out running basslines, arpeggiated chord progressions, and step-by-step deconstructions of simple themes... these items are like beads on a string, which Fonda twists and twirls as his vision evolves. The purity of the solo experience is quite revealing about the way Fonda views the relationship between structure and freedom, an aspect that has dominated his work within groups.
Personnel: Joe Fonda, bass.