Daniele Camarda: solo (2002)
Daniele Camarda makes his foray onto the world stage alone, armed only with a six string solid body fretted bass, no effects save looping devices, whatever mechanical accessories are necessary to result in what he calls "prepared" bass, and most importantly, his head, heart and hands. While it should be an impossible task to find a 26 year old bassist that would be equally at home performing solo at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention or the Vision Festival , here we have it - a young gun with an amazing array of musical preference and expertise literally at his fingertips. There is little comparable material out there, but a mix of the work of Eliot Fisk, Japanese "ninja bassist" Quagero Imazawa and Fred Frith would be a great place to start.
The recording took place over only one day in the studio, parts of which you can hear on the recording. The sound of hands on wood and steel, gentle stomps on boxes, breathing and the holding of breath and several unidentifiable studio "ghosts" are engagingly heard throughout the recording. In fact, an imitator armed with a similar array implements and looping devices-like there are many of those around- would be easily able to identify the points at which to utilize them since their activation is in fact audible on the recording.
The pieces herein are merely entitled i-x, with "i" , a soundtrack for the sinister-minded, beginning with tones rubbed more than plucked, going in and out of audibility, first alone, then with echoing intervals giving the aura of a mini-string section. "ii" is a similar piece involving a different string stimulus, producing echoing tones more in the midrange , changing it up with an ethnic melody, with notes decaying as if manipulated with a bar under the strings, or more likely, with notes tapped out with the left hand while droning strings are rubbed with the right, ending with a series of notes plucked viola style.
Nothing thus far has prepared us for "iii," a modern classical piece seemingly for guitar, improvised spontaneously on six string bass by Camarda. Trust me, no player that has come before him has displayed this level of contrapuntal fingerstyle classical fluidity and chops on the instrument. There is no interpolation or compensation necessary here on the part of listener regarding the fact the piece is rendered on bass. The music merely finds itself in a different tonality, and a pleasant, muscular one at that, than if it were rendered on a nylon-string classical box. After a minute, a series of sad arpeggios resonate against pedals, which then become sculpted against a contrapuntal backdrop, a soundtrack for some awe-inspiring spectacle. Remember, no overdubbing. This song alone signals the arrival of a new star on the instrument , and begs many more questions, some astute, some banal, such as: What's his ensemble work like? What kind of music does he really like? Can he play standards, bebop, fusion-pop even? Who can we pair him up with? What famous "names" need him in their band? These questions won?t be answered here, but as the beginning of "iv" indicates, Daniele's certainly his own man. Now he's whacking the strings with drumsticks, or pencils or metal, reveling in what sounds to be an unwinding spring accompanied by a tap dancer- this is not some novelty, but serious delving into the avant-garde.
"v" is all clipped sound waves-no doubt there's some kind of bar under the frets this time, rendering a ringing interrupted by metal more severe than some of the sounds Percy Jones is noted for in the solo realm. Thing is-the bass sound itself is extremely acoustic and resonant here, even thought the note values are clipped. How does all the air get pumped into the solid body? With no contrapuntal compunction, Camarda then blows classical riffs with this sound. The next piece features sounds that would more likely be associated with the sarod, samisen, sitar or koto over a loop of what seems like electrical wires thick with voltage-then Morse code tapped out in the high registers. Some of it sounds like vibrations from a musical saw, or perhaps Billy Bang running up and down the lower strings on the violin. This is interrupted by a string plucked or rubbed by metal producing a keen whistling effect- not stuff for the faint-of-heart listeners among us.
It's hardly conceivable that the same player produces "vii," a stark but impeccably played melody voiced legato, with mysteries revealed as notes decay-haunting. "vii" begins with a monster's walk, then bones chattering in the form of Camarda tapping up high on the neck. Believe me, this isn't Wooten-style bass tapping as we know it-it's harsh stuff- then, surprisingly both parts get looped so that he can play over it all in conventional fashion, revealing his considerable grace, chops and gorgeous melodicism that have been shrouded for the better part of the recording. This is a clean, unadorned tone using lines that are not "jazz' or bop oriented, but more like linear classical/flamenco fusion, incorporating chromatic adornments. "ix" uses oriental motifs and "x" revisits impossibly clean classicism, reminding us again of the Camarda's irreconcilable love for both the melodic and the dissonant. But all is fair in love and music, and hopefully there are none among us who would make him choose one concubine over another or be labeled an iconoclast. In any case, if you would please don't -otherwise, you'll be missing out on a stunning new voice that I guarantee will continue to be name-checked in the music world (and the bass world) for years to come.
Track Listing: I-X, I revisited
Personnel: Daniele Camarda-bass, loops, prepared bass