Bass Instinct is a group of six Austrian double-bass players,
with all but one based in Vienna. The different individuals
come from a variety of backgrounds; two play with the Vienna
Philharmonic, another with the Vienna Volksoper, another teaches
at the University for Music and Applied Arts, Graz and two are
The works on this disc are all contemporary pieces written especially
for the group, generally by double-bass players; Barbara Bruckmuller
seems to be the non-bass playing exception. The works are all
recorded acoustically and not amplified.
The disc opens with El Violagambista by group member
Gina Schwartz, who studied in Vienna, Berklee College Boston
and in New York. It is a homage to the fact that the bass instrument
owes its shape to the viola da gamba family. In fact the work
is an appealing mixture of baroque and jazz. Joelle Leandreís
Butterfly II mixes highly rhythmic sections with cries
and whispers and allows the players room for improvisation.
Leandre is a French bassist and composer active in new music
and free improvisation.
American jazz bassist Mark Dresser wrote Lacytude in
memory of Steve Lacy the jazz musician who died in 2004 after
a long career. Here the piece is played in an arrangement by
Gerhard Muthspiel. The piece combines different layers of circular,
repetitive movement in a hypnotically repetitive way. Barbara
Bruckmullerís Bridesque has a jazz/funk feel with an
attractive plucked accompaniment. Bruckmuller is an Austrian
jazz composer and arranger who runs her own big band.
In the CD liner notes Elf by Thomas Stempkowski is described
as a row of loops. In it a variety of rhythmic effects such
as col legno accompany a melody with distinctly Latin
American feel. In fact in many of these pieces, varied though
they are, it was the jazzy Latino feel that kept coming back.
Maples and Spruce consists of two movements from a longer
work by Mark Helias, the American bassist/composer. Here I would
have liked more information than the short sentence given in
the notes; you feel that the work is telling a story. The two
movements are dramatic and melodic again with some hints of
The booklet says that Georg Breinschmidís 5/4 is based
on a minimalistic pattern, but the liner-notes describe the
next piece rather differently to the way I perceive it. What
came over to me was an attractive Hispanic melody with a wonderfully
richly textured accompaniment.
Young Czech bassist Jiri Slavkís Ceremony for a Narcissus
is a slow, dark piece full of haunting dissonance. Whereas 19
Centuries, by Icelandic composer Skuli Sverrison, starts
from Shaker Loops and then develops melodically as well.
It is played in an arrangement by Peter Herbert.
Another Gina Schwartz piece, Next to Irnfritz presents
a rather attractively jaunty, even sly, melody. In contrast
Peter Herbertís YAK 52 is composed from different types
of rhythmic slapping; the piece was originally written for a
film by Gerhard Klocker. The last Gina Schwartz piece, Sound
of Air, deploys unashamedly romantic melancholy, offset
by rhythmic moments.
For the finale, Peter Herbertís arrangement of Georg Breinschmidís
Zorpnerís Holiday is a jauntily happy piece, complete
with whistling. Breinschmid is an Austrian bassist and composer;
classically trained and playing in various Viennese orchestras,
he migrated to jazz in 1999.
This is an imaginative disc, beautifully played. The combination
of six double-basses results in a very distinctive sound; you
could hardly mistake the double-bassís upper register for any
other instrument. These pieces develop the sound world of the
bass, rather than trying to make it something which it isnít.
The results are by turns serious, humorous and attractively
melodic. Do try it.
Gina SCHWARTZ (b. 1968)
El Violagambista [2.31]
Joelle LEANDRE (b.1951)
Butterfly II [3.39]
Mark DRESSER (b.1952)
Barbara BRUCKMULLER (b.1975)
Mark HELIAS (b.1950)
Maples & Spruce I [3.26]
Maples & Spruce II [6.24]
Georg BREINSCHMID (b.1973)
Jiri SLAVIK (b.1986)
Ceremony for a Narcissus [5.02]
Skuli SVERRISSON (b.1966)
19 centuries [4.38]
Next to Irnfritz [4.47]
Peter HERBERT (b.1960)
YAK 52 [3.50]
Sound of air [6.43]
Zorpnerís Holiday [2.25]