Super Bass 2
Review by Karl Lozier
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SACD Stock Number: Telarc Hybrid 63483
Hey, this is a fun recording. It is also a fine sounding hybrid SACD (playable on any CD player) of some particularly beautiful and tuneful music. Half the selections are old favorites, but not so old that I don't remember them well. This group, which gets together only infrequently, is centered by Ray Brown. Ray is actually a living legend in the jazz world. He's best known, as far as I'm concerned, as part of Oscar Peterson's trio. If you are not familiar with that trio, try to correct that oversight some time very soon. As Ray Brown puts it, "Super Bass is a co-op of three bass players - not one guy with two side bass players". These are three great bass players and for the most part just these three do all the music making here. During the live recording sessions Regina Carter, Diana
Krall, Benny Green and Monty Alexander were some of the jazz artists present in the audience!
The album begins and then later ends with their "Super Bass'" signature theme. The second selection is
"Get Happy" with much plucking of the strings, separately and with all three players together. With so much energy being radiated in the mid bass and upper bass areas, at times it's a bit difficult to exactly localize each of the three players. The soundscape is often very full and rich with just these three great musicians. If your speaker placement is not correct or if your room acoustics play games with them, you will hear it right away. Many of you will have to adjust your preamplifier's balance control to have a well-balanced soundscape. As a nice check-up for you, at times the same notes are repeated on the "other side". In all the selections, Ray Brown is centered and John Clayton is heard on your left side, Christian McBride on the right.
"Mysterioso" is a blues composition by Theloius Monk (arranged here by John Clayton). Sounds as if all manner of bass playing from the usual pizz (pizzicato/plucking) to the usual bowing
(arco) variations are heard here. Collectively they add much to a composition I'm not used to hearing.
"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" turns out to be as rollicking as it is rolling. Percussionist George Fludias is added here for a nice touch of variety. The first time I listened to this piece I thought that Michael Bishop had screwed up (he had not of course) because the apparent soundscape depth of the singing and the instruments simply did not jibe. What was happening was that a few people in the audience were joining in, not just the performers. I had not spotted that on the first casual listening session. A fun piece played by three great bassists having fun recorded with serious fidelity.
The next three selections are from Porgy and Bess. "Summertime, I Love You Porgy" and
"It Ain't Necessarily So" are heard here in simple and beautiful arrangements by Ray Brown. I would think that Gerswhin would approve and marvel at what great bass players can do with his compositions.
"Summertime" seemed to be particularly entertaining with the bass instrument almost substituting for a bass vocalist - simply beautiful.
"It Ain't Necessarily So" is simply done in a gently swinging style. Dizzy Gillespie's
"Birk's Works" as arranged by Ray Brown here shows off many methods, styles or techniques of bass playing. Many of the effects are rather subtle. Listen for the almost hidden results of the col legno playing. That is simply the striking of the wood (back of the bow) against the strings or at times slightly turning the bow so that some of the hair strikes also for a variation in sound produced - listen carefully for it on this piece particularly.
"My Funny Valentine" lets John Clayton show off by playing his string bass almost as if he were playing the violin. There are some interesting effects here. For your information, the upper range of the string bass was never intended to be played; the instrument was designed for the bass range only. Typically, if ever used in the upper range it is not a particularly pleasant sound; it is definitely not the sound of a big, fuller or richer projecting violin!
"Taco With a Pork Chop" is the last selection I'll mention here. It is another of Ray Brown's compositions and here he adds two percussionists, a great deal of audible humor including Ray, John and Clayton also becoming a vocal trio. As the liner notes point out, Ray is using ethnic foods as a symbol for uniting two ethnic groups or it can be considered as a social statement. No matter, it's the showpiece of the outstanding Telarc release. Sure, three bassists is extremely unusual for a trio, but you have my "almost your money back guarantee" that you will play this recording more than once because of its outstanding and melodic music making. The live recording is a model of its kind and simply showcases the music. Enjoy,