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Double Bass Music of Frank Proto
SONATA 1963 for Double Bass and Piano [13.04]
FOUR ROGUES, a Mystery for Double Bass & Piano [18.00]
Audition 1 / 20 / 87 [1.31]
CADENZA and DANCE [2.41]
CAPRICE [4.27]
DUETS for Double Basses [13.24]
John Ebinger (double bass)
Roy Hakes (piano)
Recorded Arizona State University 1/ 94 - 6/ 94 DDD
Soundset SR1003 [53.07]
Amazon US

A recording of a double bass, with or without piano is still enough of a rarity to raise a reviewer's eyebrow. In the jazz world, of course, the instrument is an honoured one and players like Walter Page, with the Count Basie Band and Ray Brown in the Oscar Peterson Trio quickly come to mind. In the orchestral field, the double bass is always played by men - they form their own little huddle and stand at the back behind the others, and often they seem to be leaning on their instruments to stay awake. Only joking, of course, chaps. So a disc like this from a relatively new source has instant attention.

The notes on this disc from the Soundset label based in Arizona tell us that Frank Proto is a composer and a performer. He was in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra bass section and from 1972 to '82 he was its Composer-in-residence. Reference is made to his influences - ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Mahler. The music on the CD is from the early 1960's to the mid eighties. As the composer's d.o.b. is not shown, whether there was composition prior to this period is not known. The performers throughout are double-bassist John Ebinger, of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and Roy Hakes.

The works on the disc certainly show an eclectic range of sources. The jazz connection is strong, with lots of rhythmic drive and a regular use of the plucked bass especially in the first work, Sonata, with a touch of the mysterious in the writing of the third movement. A clear stylistic change is apparent in Four Rogues where the jazz element is sensed rather than apparent. In the second section, the piano provides a constant reference point while the bass wanders away before returning. The following Agitato section is full of strange harmonics and broken rhythms.

Caprice is for a solo bass in the form of an extended ramble and in Duets recording trickery allows John Ebinger to play both roles. In Blues (Section V) he bowed and plucked simultaneously. Shostakovich is not listed as an influence but I thought I detected it, even a reference to the DSCH motif.

A disc of moderate interest, much of the writing being, naturally enough from a composer-practitioner, devoted to what the instrument is capable of doing. The recording is excellent and the two players first-rate.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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