Third Annual Double Bass Summit Live At Dizzy's
It was finally time for the organizer to shine as Rob Thorsen took the stage with White and Moore for a romp on his original waltz, "Dance Of The Freaky Circles." This was an extended trio workout, with excellent pianist White digging in for a lengthy solo and Thorsen making his case on the upright. Thorsen has a very strong melodic sense and complex rhythmic dynamic. In the mid and low registers, he's muscular and sequential with piquant forays into thumb-position territory.
Pianist White then conducted a seven bass ensemble through his arrangement of Chopin's "Prelude In C Minor." In terms of the multiple bass ensembles, this one was the most successful. White's careful assignment of individual voices to the seven bassists was such that they achieved maximum blend and clarity. It was a treat to hear seven double bassists bowing together on a piece that was written for solo piano. Profound and elegant are two words that come to mind.
Next up was a solo feature for the classical musician Andres Martin. In addition to his symphonic work, Martin is a specialist in Tango music. He chose Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion" as his solo spot. After hearing so many bassists, especially with the bow, it was hard to believe that this player would be able to distinguish himself from what had already been played. Somehow, Martin found a way. His version of "Oblivion" was an outstanding study of arco tone production. He made the melody sound so bittersweet and full of heartache that you could literally see eyes misting up during the performance.
At this point it should be noted that except for when the "jazz" players were leading the piano trio, everything was performed without amplification. Hearing all of these players in acoustic form was a rare opportunity. Mark Dresser (Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille), followed Martin, and it was his choice to completely improvise for his feature. Dresser's spot began with his remarkable technique of two-handed tapping opposing glissandos on adjacent strings. From there he struck the bass like an petulant child, produced harmonics from the least likely locations and generally confounded most of the accepted notions of bass technique. Dresser is conversant in classical music, all things avant-garde, and straight ahead jazz. All of these experiences are treated more or less equally in his aesthetic.
Contrabassist extraordinaire Bertram Turetzky was allotted the penultimate spot for his solo expository. He chose two short pieces dedicated to his father. Both pieces featured Turetzky in arco and pizzicato modes. One thing about Turetzky that can not be ignored is the purity and strength of his signal. He could probably be heard (and felt) 2 blocks away from Dizzy's that night. Turetzky is the originator of many of the "extended techniques" so prevalent in the "new music" context. Indeed he is the author of "The Contemporary Contrabass" (University of California Press, Vol.7, 1989) which explains many of those principles.
For the closer, all eight bassists crowded the stage along with pianist White and drummer Moore and unwrapped their "surprise" ending which been alluded to several times: they absolutely rocked the capacity house at Dizzy's with an insanely goofy arrangement of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" which elicited laughter and hand-claps on the backbeat. All in all, eight compelling examples of the power, nuance and beauty of this often overlooked, majestic instrument.