Deep Tones for Peace is a project from the Kadima Collective run by (set up?) by Jean Claude Jones a bass player who emigrated to Israel in 1983. The project features master bass players mostly from the world of modern bass players, some classical, others from the world of improvised music and jazz. The players on this CD/DVD release are : -
Jerusalem : Hama'abada Lab - Mark Dresser, Barre Phillips, JC Jones, Bert Turetzky, Irina-Kalina Goudeva, Chi-chi Nwanoku, Thierry Barbe, Michael Klinghoffer,
New York : Manhattan School of Music - Sarah Weaver (conducting), Trevor Dunn, Henry Grimes, Lindsey Horner, Dave Phillips, Rufus Reid.
As you can see the players are split into two teams, why? Well, this is a project with a difference, and has been set up as a call for peace via the world of music and especially as you can see bass players. The idea (basically) is that two groups of bass players, in different places, play pieces of music via internet link up. SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble (I guess that's the piece Dresser talks about at the start of the DVD) is built on the bass notes of D and G, (meant to be) the lowest tones in the universe, or that's what Mark Dresser tells us, hence the title. However, what we get is much more than this, and a must for all budding free form music fans and off course bass players with a sense of adventure. I'll break the review down into the two separate elements, although from what I understand the DVD is a documentary about the project, and the CD is the performance of SLM.
Deep Tones for Peace - a film by (1h 30) :
This is really the most interesting thing to watch and listen to first. For someone like me - musician, but not a bass player - it really helps you understand what you're about to hear (in more detail) on the CD, although the DVD is NOT the music of the CD! However, there is added interest here with the inclusion of :
1) Dialog from JC Jones, who briefly describes to (maybe ?) a journalist, the idea behind this project.
2) Mark Dresser getting his team ready for the final project performance, which is heard only in it's entirety on the CD.
3) The most interesting bit is a chance to get to see the musicians performing, solos, duets, trios and sections together, although I'm not sure where these fit into the SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble project. From what we see at the end of the DVD - announcements from a presenter at the concert you see being filmed - this was several days of performances, with SLM being another part. The individual performances are very interesting, and mostly very accessible. Interestingly enough Bert Turetzky uses a poem over his piece which comes across very nicely and of course keeps your attention. Barre Phillips turns up in several situations, solo, in duet with Dave Phillips (via internet link up), and an excellent duo performance with Turetzky. We get to see Mark Dresser performing a very intense solo piece/improvisation (?) which is quite striking due to his masterful playing. Other performances that stand out are Irina-Kalina Goudeva performing a piece combining voice (hers) and bass, Thierry Barbe a piece using pre-recorded sound and bass, and JC Jones comes up at several moments solo, in trio, and quartet, much like Mark Dresser, with very strong emotional playing, or improvisations. I imagine that we are witnessing the first day - of concerts - with duo, trio, quartet and solo performances, or that's how it comes across.
The CD (48mins) (*)
SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble :
It's very interesting after having listened to and watched the DVD concerning the making of the music and it's performance. The music on this disc is made up of one long piece SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble, although everyone gets a feature at some point ..... I imagine? It is one of the small weakness with this edition that there is no information on who's playing at what moment, although one could argue, who cares, it's the music that counts. If you buy the CD/DVD package you'll also get to see more information about SLM - composed by Dresser and Weaver. There's a lovely booklet that goes with the package explains that SLM is a piece made using different compositional systems, including Soundpainting. (**)
Having said this there are some lovely moments of tranquil music which come out of the often dense sound of 13 basses. At 18 minutes a very lovely bowing solo from one of the players - Barbe maybe - brings in a nice rhythmical section using harmonics and low tones. At 21 minutes a solo pizzicato ostinato section with strange chordal sounds shimmering ushers in another soloist. The closest it gets to mainstream jazz (even post Coltrane) is around 34 minutes with another funky ostinato (Rufus Reid?) accompanied by percussive tapping from the bows. All in all the music reminds me of watching the sea, constant movement such as the swells of waves, long moments of very powerful walls of sound which eventually give way to more delicate sections. At the end of the piece the music kind of hovers for the last few minutes and finally comes to rest as if some sort of long journey is over.
Over all it's a very satisfying listen, if you're into hearing basses en mass, and if you're just open minded. You'll have to give it many listens to really get to know it well as there is so much going on through this recording. Often it's difficult to settle down to this type of music with such an unusual combination, and even though the music is almost 'epic' I think that in the end it's quite accessible, especially with a DVD to get you into the general climate. All in all it's an interesting addition to the bass catalogue, and after all where else will you find 13 of the worlds top bass players on the same record?
If you're interested to get hold of a copy I suggest looking at their website Kadima Collective here as I'm not sure if this will be available via larger outlets.
(*) I listened, whilst writing this review, on my computer AND when I placed the CD in my machine it came up as 'Interview with Keith Richards' !!!!!!! Unfortunately I can't tell you why, but if this happens, maybe you should let JC Jones know as iTunes could get this changed this way people know what they've really bought and are listening to.
(**) If you put Soundpainting into YouTube you'll find quite a few examples, which may help you to understand a little of how the system works 'practically'.