Solo playing routinely interrogates virtually every assumption one can have about music and its function. It is also the most demanding discipline in improvised music. Here, none of the well known clichés apply: there are no "dialogues," no "sparring" or contention with a partner, no call and response. So far, there has been a plethora of pianists, keyboardists, guitarists, violinists, harpists who have the wherewithal to accompany themselves, either harmonically and/or rhythmically, and to play countermelodies or contrasting lines. Sometimes solo playing is mere display, sometimes it is a kind of cleansing exercise aimed to rid the music of dependency on rhythmic or harmonic supports. Alternatively, it answers needs locked away in a conception of music too pure and individual to be exposed to interplay with others or with material familiar enough to allow the listener to surf across the lacunae. In the world of bass playing, solo records on unaccompanied double bass are a rare find. This short list is joined by The Art of Balkan Bass Art, by renowned Serbian bassist Nenad Vasilic.
In the right hands this wonderful and crucial instrument can combine and achieve many things like melody, groove, soundscapes and a wide array of emotions. Vasilic, who is a prolific composer, a band leader, and a sought after bassist, makes a full use of every possibility his instrument affords and makes a full display here. Apart from a few tunes written by Vasilic, most of the songs are traditional songs, and he uses the broad scope of his instrument to create melodies, grooves and sound textures, often all of these in one song. Vasilic plays with such a conviction and displays a full array of technical gifts that often sounds like one man orchestra. When using the instrument as a melodic instrument, as on tracks such as "Kalesh Bre Angjo," "Zapevala Sojka Ptica" "Sila Kale Bar" or "Ja Proshetah Sefteli Sokakom" he captures the yearning that is interwoven in those Balkan melodies. But when he grooves, he captures the joy of those rhythms as on "Vranjanka" or "See You on Eleven."
The skill of commanding attention and sustaining interest with only a double bass lies in the ability to treat this instrument as a self contained unit and as a platform for unheard things. Vasilic strays melodically and rhythmically when improvising, but never too much, and he never wanders into fully abstract territories. Pulsing and bubbling with a focused drive, these 11 pieces are relatively brief and focused essays. And the tone of these tunes is excellent. The Art of the Balkan Bass is recorded beautifully as the instrument's natural resonance is captured to its tiniest details. As a result to all of that, this record casually captivates from start to end, making a full display of Vasilic's talents as a performer and improviser.
Opener; Vranjanka; Lupafte; Kales bre Angjo; Zapevala Sojka Ptica; Bass
Song; Day by Day; See you at Eleven; Sila Kale Bal; Tscusch Chochek; Ja
Prosetah Sefteli Sokakom.
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