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Peter Kowald's posthumous stock continues to rise with the release of Silence and Files, a live recording from a German village solo concert circa June, 2001. The late, lamented virtuoso takes a steel-nerved tour of the bass as infinite possibility, sweeping the listener along on the promise of unfolding surprise.
Kowald's approach to free playing burned past any possibility of head-trapped intellectual theory thumping into a possessed primal passion. He created obsessively, sculpting space with bass, moving through startling techniques like a sperm whale through krill.
As you would expect on a single improvisation that lasts over 45 minutes, Kowald strives to empty his bottomless bag of artistry. Instead, roaming imaginal realms, he invents endlessly, generating melody and sound like a bass database gone berserk. Deep rolling slurs whirl up from the lowest notes, bending and curling. Repetitive patterns form and mutate into dark rough sound. Finger-fracturing runs give way to growls and near-verbalizations. Melodies intertwine chords and drones. Hands explode into a locust plague of notes. Quiet reflective tunes betray strength, not rest. From roaring thunder to feathery overtones, he ends the tour de force with what sounds like Tibetan throat singing over arco.
Likewise, the second performance finds Kowald paging through his sound catalogue, pausing to explore a new sonic wonder and quickly moving to the next with consuming delight. The fierceness of his vision and the dazzle of its manifestation provide the continuity within the spontaneity.
While over an hour of improvised solo bass playing may sound as appealing as your neighbor's birthing video, in the hands of Master Peter Kowald, it's a trip to the Magic Kingdom with the fireworks on steroids.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...