From the opening moments of this unbelievable disc, it’s clear that Stuart Hamm is not your average electric bassist. His technique rivals Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke for originality, and he strikes a good balance of tastefulness and adventure that both of those icons tended to lack.
Hamm gained fame in his supporting roles behind guitar gods Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, but his solo albums prove that he is more than a second banana. He immediately flaunts his formidable chops on the title track, which could be the fearsome offspring of a Bach etude and a Hollywood chase scene. A full album of such histrionics would get boring as hell, but Hamm is sharp enough to stir the pot frequently. Outbound contains dark urban grooves, tender moments, and a downright charming rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner that thankfully steers clear of Hendrix territory. He nods to Jaco with harmonics and a charming fretless melody on the closing track, but that’s as close as Hamm comes to dwelling on the past of fusion bass.
The occasional supporting musicians are all capable, and drummer Steve Smith is particularly noteworthy, but this is clearly Hamm’s show. You gotta love a guy who gives names to all of his basses, and overdubs up to four of them at a time. Outbound is hardly the auditory masturbation one might expect, though. He unexpectedly placed the production tasks in the hands of Youth Engine, two young San Francisco techno/dance producers who have added a bright new dimension to Hamm’s impressive musical resumé. They are responsible for the drum machines and synthesizer walls that alternately support, drive and tease Hamm throughout the set. His horizons were certainly broadened by the experience; his listeners’ will be as well.
Stuart Hamm, basses, keyboards; Youth Engine (Chris Collins and Greg Forsberg),
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