Moppa Elliott: Still, Up In The Air

Mark Sullivan By

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In his usual role as bassist and leader of the jazz group Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Moppa Elliott focuses on composing and bandleading. So his first solo double-bass album represents a real departure. In many ways it resembles band mate Jon Irabagon's recent solo sopranino saxophone album Inaction is an Action: an often abstract exploration of sound using a single instrument. Elliott plays a series of improvisations which were consciously intended to be as nonlinear as possible.

Elliott cites authors like David Foster Wallace and Milorad Pavic as influences on the approach, as both write books that prevent the reader from progressing sequentially from page to page. These performances rapidly jump from one idea to the next, simulating that prose effect musically. So in the absence of linear development (or indeed very few melodies of any sort) the pieces rely on a wide variety of playing techniques to create distinctive textures. The opening track "Sequence Three" is played pizzicato, while "Sequence Eight" makes use of lots of arco playing (with the bow), as well as col legno (the technique of striking the strings with the stick of the bow). "Sequence Nine" is memorable for its closing accelerando section, as the piece speeds up to its conclusion.

It's hard to describe this music without making it sound "difficult" and forbidding. But Elliott's playing instincts are firmly in place. However abstract these improvisations get, they're never willfully abrasive, and they sound logical (albeit unorthodox). They have an atmosphere of welcoming exploration.

Track Listing: Sequence Three; Sequence Eight; Sequence Nine; Sequence Ten; Sequence Eleven; Sequence Six/Twelve; Sequence Fourteen.

Personnel: Moppa Elliott: bass.

Title: Still, Up In The Air | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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