As a composer and recording artist who is
mostly a bass player, a solo bass recording might seem to be a logical step
in my career. But it took me 25 years and 6 albums as a solo artist/composer
to finally dare to release such a project. And in the end, this is not
exactly a “Solo Bass Record”.
This is an album of music performed
exclusively on Basses.
During pre-production, in what would
become my first solo output (1993 The Years Alone), I decided to
avoid the temptation of releasing a truly “bassist” album and (as many
fellow bass players have done) decided to concentrate my first solo
statement on my composer-arranger-multi-instrumentalist goals rather than
taking the more “risky” (critic-wise) virtuoso solo playing approach.
was a wise decision, because by that time (in a world “after Jaco”) the
standard in the art of bass solos was already extremely high.
So I kept this
low-key attitude (no bass pyrotechnics) throughout my whole career, until my
last LP, 2005 Lugar Comun. Even if that trio CD was actually a tour
de force for any bass player (trying to keep groove and harmonic/comping
roles in an acoustic bass) the main focus was on the songs and overall
sound; actually there are no bass solos in the whole album (other than the 1
minute unaccompanied intro to Luiza).
Through the years I kept exploring the
possibilities of the solo bass playing especially after moving to France and
adapting to a “life without a piano” for the first time in my composer’s
life. These solo-bass excursions are briefly represented in my recorded work
(Interlude N°1 in “Maquina Dura” and Dos Oceanos in "Maquina
Blanda"). Solo bass playing has always been my own private pleasure, be it
studying, composing or just relaxing at home, and my little Steinberger bass
was my travel companion around the world, so I ended up playing solo bass
quite a lot.
Eventually the time seemed right to make a
CD, just me and my bass (basses), by the end of 2005: after touring Lugar
Comun’s technically demanding repertory and after many years of
exploring my current set-up of 7 different basses and many custom built
pedals, I decided to give it a go with this little self-indulgent solo bass
Now: the original approach that allowed me
to make a full length CD without the monotony of the unaccompanied solo bass
formula was to think about some tracks as standard compositions with
different instruments playing each part, and arrange/orchestrate them using
just my basses. To achieve a full sounding orchestration, different
instrument combinations, effects, and special techniques (prominently the
volume pedal and the artificial harmonics technique I’m so proud of!) were
This “orchestrated” approach was used on
the most traditional compositions like Vals Polaco, Zamba Del Bajo
and La Baja.
To explore the sonic possibilities and
frequencies blend of my different basses (believe me, is not easy to build a
clear-sounding 16 track master using just low end) some preliminary “sonic
etudes” were put together, just to test the better sounding combinations (Fx/Instrumet/playing-technique/Preamps,
etc). Some of these Ad Lib multi-track improvisations were mixed and
included in the final cut as “Abstract” episodes (Abstract 1,2, &3).
On the other hand, I did dare to perform
many pieces in a more traditional “unaccompanied solo bass” format, but
instead of the more obvious virtuoso-showing-off approach, I decided to
adapt to the bass some of my compositions and just play the songs solo,
using the bass almost as a Baritone Guitar. The songs that made it to the
final track-list are mostly performed with my Acoustic Bass, with just one
song using the electric (Sans Apostrophe) and one with the Upright
Bass (Interlude #2).
I also tried some more adventurous
sounding solo performances using various real-time effects (pedals) as well.
As with the arranged “abstract” pieces, I recorded some free improvisations
on both acoustic and electric solo bass, just to get new spontaneous ideas
of directions and sounds I could use for the solo bass tunes on the LP.
A couple of these improvisations were
included in the final cut of LOW vol1: those are Impromptu #1.
Both pieces are free form, absolutely improvised “live” performances. The
more “orchestrated” sound on Impromptu#2 was achieved using two
different preamps feeding two tracks in my multi-track recorder, one with a
huge delay effect, and the other with distortion, wha-wha and filter pedals,
and using an A/B foot switch to change from one to the other in real time,
so I could play live with channel 2 above a long delayed chord just played
in channel 1.
One brief exception to the main rule (JUST
BASS!) is the use of my voice to record a drumbeat to play over in Sans
Apostrophe. I used to practice this song singing that simple groove to
myself while playing, so it made sense and was fun to record it that way. I
sang the kick&snare part, and then overdubbed the hi-hat pattern, and then I
played the Solo Bass song over that.
The second exception is the use of a field
recording to bring some street ambience as a background track for La Baja.
The recording I used, taken in the street with a tiny microphone attached to
my pocket while strolling around Paris, included some breath noise I made
that provided quite a rhythmical pattern that goes very well with the
chacarera rhythm of La Baja.
The rest is nothing but Basses,
Hope this record sounds interesting for
fellow bass players AND other music lovers around.
Paris, March 2007
PS: The upcoming LOW Vol2 will
complete this collection with solo basses versions of some music by my
favourite composers, including (perhaps):
A.C. Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Cole
Porter, Astor Piazzola, J.S.Bach, Frédéric Chopin, Erik Satie, Leguizamon&Castilla,
Lennon&McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Charles Mingus, Stevie Wonder, Gilberto
Gil, Caetano Veloso and Armando Manzanero.