Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Moppa Elliott, Still, Up in the Air

OK? Am I crazy if I tell you that Moppa Elliott's inaugural solo acoustic bass album is "funny?" I speak of Still, Up in the Air (Hot Cup 152). I do not mean "haha" or "lol" funny. It is in fact a dead serious journey through some exceptional bass zones in seven segments, using bow and pizzicato and yielding some beautifully expressive sounds. No, it is not exactly a joke. Far from it. But Moppa Elliott is, as we have come to know, a mischievous fellow. As head of Mostly Other People Do the Killing, as composer, as who he is, he has given us some quite serious and seriously excellent music in the company of his illustrious cohorts, some of it with a real sense of humor that is all too rare these days. He has caused controversy, but no, I am NOT going into that here. And there is the ability to take himself very seriously but also to laugh.

Let me be more specific. The album is filled with some very excellent, supercharged avant bass playing. His own approach to the bass is on fine display. He often gets a kind of dual sonic panorama playing out, as, for example, bowing on some strings and hammering on others simultaneously.

There is often a manic quality to the improvisations that is attuned to the "energy music" mode that is of course integral to avant jazz. He gets many a froth flowing in his playing plus an wealth of attacks and colors via conventional and unconventional techniques. There are times though where there is something humorous about the sheer over-the-top frenzy he can unleash on us. I know this can be taken the wrong way. Hell, anything one writes can always do that. And I can remember when one of my compositions, written many years ago, was thought "funny" by my composition guru. Now, yes, it WAS funny, but at the time I had forgotten that aspect and I said to myself, somewhat indignantly, "it is not SUPPOSED to be funny." I was wrong. But it's easy to get touchy. So I must say I mean this in the positive sense.

There is a huge energy outpouring in this performative wave of profusion. And at times Moppa takes it far enough that he ends up parodying himself. Does that make sense? The point in the end is that this is superlative solo bass playing that has a consistency with Moppa's musical personality. And that it is original and quite exemplary.

It is over-the-top, fun even, yet seriously good. Get it and dig on those huge dimensional swaths of sound! Basso profundo...

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