Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

331

Bass String Duos: Dark Wood Explorations and Jonathan Chen Orchestra

Elliott Simon By

Sign in to view read count


Judith Insell Joe Fonda Duo
Dark Wood Explorations
Self Produced
2008


Jonathan Chen and Tatsu Aoki
Jonathan Chen Orchestra
Asian Improv aRts
2007



Two very different bassists, Joe Fonda and Tatsu Aoki, each pairs with a different member of the string family to create sonic experiences that stress sonority and explore harmonics. Fonda meets violist Judith Insell on equal terms for the uniquely beautiful Dark Wood Explorations while Aoki is the lone supporting player in violinist Jonathan Chen's Orchestra.

Of all the orchestral string instruments the viola has had the least affinity for jazz. Barely bigger than a violin, it is tuned five notes lower and as a result sacrifices the violin's brightness. In Insell's capable hands throughout Dark Wood Explorations, however, this is more than made up for by a luxuriously warm tone custom-made to blend with Fonda's deeply resonant bass. Insell contributes four tunes and Fonda two as the pair take turns providing the rhythm for the other's free-formish melodic statements and Trane's "India" and Bill Evans' "Very Early" are painted with deep textural strokes. At times, Insell can swing in an almost Stuff Smith way as she demonstrates on the surprisingly upbeat closer "Voo La La Blues." But for the most part this release meets its stated aim as moody harmonics abound and are most intriguing when the two play in tandem.

The lofty aspirations for the cleverly titled Jonathan Chen's Orchestra are nearly achieved as violin and bass meet in intimate yet adventurous soundscapes. Both utilize harmonics and perhaps some electronic aids in performing what is a broad array of improvised compositions. Chen plays in a staccato fashion while Aoki maintains beautiful support that highlights his instrument's depth on cuts like CD opener "Reading Comprehension" and the delightful romp "Capital." It is however, on the more 'out' pieces like "Beneath the Skin" and "Imago" where the duo are at their most inventive, morphing their stringed instruments into otherworldly equipment. The former has Chen simulating an operatic diva while the latter features a somewhat astonishing in-tandem percussive exploration. At times the duo surprises with a catchy melody like that of the mesmerizing "Bracket" or when Aoki plays in a register that seemingly should be Chen's on the hypnotic "Four Twenty-Three." "Backwards" ends the program with a lovely exotic feel brought about through what can best be described as a constructive "birthing" simulated by Aoki's percussive chords and Chen's cries and sobs.


Tracks and Personnel

Dark Wood Explorations

Tracks: India; Very Early; Bill; In the White Cage; Elm; Baghdad Waltz; Song for my Mother; Voo La La Blues.

Personnel: Judith Insell: viola; Joe Fonda: bass.

Jonathan Chen Orchestra

Tracks: Reading Comprehension; Beneath the Skin; Capital; Imago; Bell; Harber; Bracket; Four Twenty-Three; Backwards.

Personnel: Jonathan Chen: violin; Tatsu Aoki: bass


Shop

More Articles

Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read Pi Recordings 2016 Releases Multiple Reviews Pi Recordings 2016 Releases
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 24, 2016
Read Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad Multiple Reviews Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad
by Dave Wayne
Published: December 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!