Perhaps the most demanding medium for the upright bassist is the solo outing. Unlike settings where a drummer helps keep time, or where a pianist helps define harmonic changes, the solo format demands everything from the bassist. In a way, solo recordings have been a proving ground: some of the greatest bass players in history have done their best work alone in the studio (eg. Dave Holland's Emerald Tears, or William Parker's Testimony ).
Lynn Seaton comes from a background rich with group activity: he played in the Woody Herman and Count Basie orchestras, among others. But on Solo Flights he takes the stage alone. Solo Flights resonates with remarkable virtuosity: double stops and singing arco passages alternate with walking bass lines. Seaton embellishes melodies with harmonics, trills, and lilting swing, making an effort to achieve texture even during his most relaxed moments.
The tunes on Solo Flights mostly have a spontaneous ring, free of the crutches of arrangement and repetition. His "Ode to Jimi" presents a seven-note theme from "Kiss the Sky" within shifting rhythmic backdrops, repeated and modulated through blues changes, alternating with improvised phrases. Fresh, indeedthough perhaps a bit disconcerting if you're expecting something more along the straightforward lines of the original. Seaton deserves credit for his meticulous attention to harmony, even during improvised melodic lines.
Solo Flights is a very solid recording, though perhaps a bit dispassionate for this listener's ears. The emotive power of an instrument roughly the scale of the human body can be immense, but Seaton chooses instead to operate within a more controlled, intellectual framework. Various tunes on this disc go up-tempo or downtempoand Seaton has his finger on the pulse at all timesbut rarely does he bring the bass up to a visceral climax. One must instead enjoy Solo Flights as a shifting, evolving work within the emotional midrange.
Improv for Aubrey; Moten Swing; Ode to Jimi; Body and Soul; Rain; Barcelona; Trane's Changes; How High the Moon/Ornithology; First Melody; Honeysuckle Rose; Liltin' with Milton; Yesterdays.
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