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Album Review

Barre Phillips/Mike Bullock: At Home

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Barre Phillips/Mike Bullock: At Home
With End To End (ECM Records, 2018), Barre Phillips made his final major statement in the solo double bass format he created. In 2019 fellow American bassist Mike Bullock visited him at his secluded mountainside home in France, a 17th century stone house attached to an 11th century stone church. The pair spent a couple of relaxed hours in the Chapelle Sainte Philomène playing solos on Phillips' double bass, each playing a few minutes and passing the instrument back and forth: this album includes three solos from each of them.

The house and church have been Phillips' home for almost fifty years. While he has recorded a few albums in the church, this represents the first public document of his solo playing there, giving it a special place in his extensive discography. So it is appropriate that the album begins with his first solo. A slow-moving arco line hangs suspended in the resonant space as Phillips explores the range of the instrument, interrupted by a spiccato interlude as he slaps the strings with the bow. Bullock's first solo begins with a staccato flurry, then slows down a bit for overtone exploration (during which bird songs can be heard through the open doorway).

Phillips' second solo makes particular use of the resonance of the space, contrasting low and high tones in the shimmer of reverb, with some tones ringing out especially strongly. Bullock's second solo finally includes a bit of pizzicato playing (as does his third solo), in dialog with arco passages, and ending on a strummed chord. Pizzicato passages have special resonance in this space, but it does apparently favor arco playing: it seems to open up, rich with ringing overtones. Phillips closes the album with a final arco exploration, featuring striking melodies in the low register, as well as a chorus of high overtones. A long, calm final section gradually fades out.

The Chapelle Sainte Philomène is a truly striking acoustic space, so much so that it is almost a duet partner with the soloists. Surely the act of alternating solos also contributes to the calm, yet exploratory atmosphere of the session. There is considerable technique on offer, but no empty display. A fine additional statement from Barre Phillips, and a showcase for Mike Bullock. All proceeds from this Bandcamp album go to benefit music-related non-profit organisations, including the European Improvisation Center (CEPI), founded by Barre Phillips in 2014.

Track Listing

Solo B1; Solo M1; Solo B2; Solo M2; Solo M3; Solo B3.

Personnel

Barre Phillips: bass; Mike Bullock: bass.

Album information

Title: At Home | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced


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