Larry Grenadier – The Gleaners
(ECM. CD Review by Jon Turney)
The resourcefulness and richness of modern double bass playing never cease to astound me. There are any number of players whose contribution can be the highlight of a live set, and a clutch of solo bass albums among my all-time favourites.
Here, another widely admired exponent rises to that ultimate challenge, with the latest in ECM’s long-standing series of releases featuring unaccompanied bass. Larry Grenadier, a strong contributor to groups led by many others, most prominently Brad Mehldau, has spoken of his relish for bass players’ commitment to adaptability, and to making everyone else sound good, but here he digs into his own most deeply felt music.
The opener features sumptuous bowed lines, and the pieces then alternate, more or less, between plucked and bowed sounds, with a little of both on the multi-tracked Woebegone. There’s plenty of variation within the format, the plucked bass sometimes folksy, sometimes swinging relentlessly, the bowed work exploring all registers. Throughout there is the feeling Grenadier mentions in the notes, that solo bass music precludes excess. It’s stripped down, tightly focussed music. But there is nothing ascetic about it. This recording is as sensuous as dark chocolate melting on the tongue or sipping a glass of fine Saint-Émilion.
That’s true on every cut, mostly pieces of Grenadier’s own, with one standard (My Man’s Gone Now), one by his wife, Rebecca Martin, a couple of vignettes from Wolfgang Muthspiel, and a longer excursion that combines John Coltrane’s Compassion with a tune by Paul Motian. If I reach for one word, there is something very inviting about the whole set – every piece, however brief, seems to have a different welcome for the listener.
Like many, I mostly settle for downloads these days, but I fancy this set deserves to be heard on CD. Beautifully recorded by James Farber, the sound of the instrument is drop dead gorgeous throughout, and so is the music Grenadier fashions from it.
Categories: CD review