Thursday, December 10, 2020

Damon Smith, Whatever is Not Stone is Light, Solo Double Bass


The solo double bass album, like the solo drum album is perhaps somewhat esoteric compared with a more standard ensemble offering. There are not all that many either. A Dave Holland solo many years ago was something to appreciate, truly. And then a Michael Bisio one, I believe reviewed here, was a standout. One is better not trying to compare one with another if each says something well--for it is in the saying that we get the substance, not necessarily in fanning out every one ever made like a hand of cards.

So there is a new one, this time by Damon Smith. It has a title that is in itself something to think about, namely Whatever is Not Stone is Light (Balance Point Acoustics BPA-10). There are some 23 solo segments, which are titled based on Lysander Kemp translations of poems by Octavio Paz.

Damon Smith has deservedly garnered a reputation over the years as one of the foremost bass players in the "Free" or "Avant Jazz" camp. His own albums are well worth hearing and I have reviewed some of them on this page and also my Gapplegate Music Review page. He has been a focal point for the New Jazz and now this new solo album extends his voice and makes us happily appreciate his view of the instrument as a solo voice.

There are of course pizzicato passages, all of poetic interest, as are the bowed segments and the extended technique masteries--that all combine together for a very lively and satisfying aesthetic statement. It is music occupying the upper echelons, the highest psychic registers of upper-dom.

It is an album of uncompromising solo bass statements, a poetics of  contrabass utterance, a landmark of directed improvisation, of bass imagination. It is an album your should hear and have. Definitely recommended.