Although unaccompanied recordings certainly had a moment during the pandemic, bassist Michael Bisio
was actually recorded a few weeks before Covid upended the world. While he is a bandleader of some accomplishment, with a string of excellent albums from his quartet in the mid-2000s, and recent dates which include Row For William O
(Relative Pitch, 2016) and Requiem For A New York Slice
(Iluso, 2019), he may be best known for his association with two free music stalwarts, pianist Matthew Shipp
and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee
. But even on his own, Bisio is a formidable proposition. He has already risen to the solo challenge once before on the self produced Travel Music
back in 2011, so he is in possession of all the necessary tools.
On a program just shy of an hour, Bisio tackles seven of his own pieces and two covers, a similar mix to last time out. However there is a difference in that on this occasion most of the cuts adopt the go-where-you-will trajectory of an improvisation with any thematic material in heavy disguise. That follows a trend in Bisio's group work too, as he explains in an interview published in February 2022
: "In recent years, I would call my compositional style conceptual." Without fixed rhythmic or melodic structures, Bisio trusts his imagination, melding contrasts in density, tonality and pacing into flowing excursions into the unknown.
Canny sequencing also maintains interest. So the purposeful pizzicato of "Quintessence," in which he spans the fingerboard, bending pitches, following fast runs with ringing slurs, moving between cascades of knotty motifs and pensive phrases, precedes the slow arco of "New One," where the frayed edges of the deep notes convey an emotional fragility. John Coltrane
's solemn "Wise One," with its abstract melodicism and yearning upper register patterns, is succeeded by the grating harshness of "Hear Now," confirming that it is with bow in hand that Bisio explores timbre and texture most thoroughly. But he ends the program with a standard, "I Fall In Love Too Easily," given an aching feel, an introspective close to a heartfelt set.
Quintessence; New One; Henry's Theme; Small Things Interrupted; Renew One; Wise One; Hear Now; Before Dawn Rising; I Fall in Love Too Easily.