BP Recommends: March 2016 CD & Book Reviews by Bass Players for Bass Players

March 9, 2016

DAVID BOWIE
(BLACKSTAR) [ISO/Columbia]

As news broke of David Bowie’s death only days after the release of his 25th album, another layer of musical context suddenly became clear. “He wanted to do it his way, and he wanted to do it the best way,” longtime producer Tony Visconti wrote in a Facebook post. “His death was not different from his life—a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.” Bowie has always been known for his impeccable timing—that is, he seems to know the future before we do—so it’s only fitting that besides cranking out seven new songs that embody some of his best performances since 1995’s Outside or even 1980’s Scary Monsters, he also indulged his knack for finding great talent to back him up. To wit: Tim Lefebvre, formerly of the Saturday Night Live house band, currently with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and often a fixture at New York’s 55 Bar, where Bowie caught him in full funk-fusion mode on his trusty Moollon P Classic, with Donny McCaslin (sax), Jason Lindner (keyboards), and Mark Guiliana (drums). Lefebvre anchors the proceedings with his locked-up sense of rhythm, whether it’s on the epic drum-n-bass-style title track or the stripped-bare “Lazarus.” He also makes the most of a symbiotic connection with Guiliana, especially on the frenetic stop/start groove of “Sue (or In a Season of Crime).” By the time we reach the poignant closer, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” which opens with a melody reminiscent of the Ziggy Stardust classic “Soul Love,” Lefebvre seems to be playing directly off Bowie’s lead vocal, with fills that recall the fluid prowess of a long line of Bowie bassists, from George Murray to Gail Ann Dorsey. —Bill Murphy

ARIANE CAP
MUSIC THEORY FOR BASS PLAYERS [arianecap.com]

Ariane Cap’s new book accomplishes what few instructional materials do: It makes music theory easy and accessible. Covering everything from scales, chords, and groove to the more advanced topics of triads and modes, Cap uses visual charts and helpful images to make daunting concepts obtainable for players of all levels. Her “show, don’t tell” method will have you playing with more confidence and freedom in no time. —Jon D’Auria

LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX
ONE FOR THE SOUL SUSPENSE [Light in the Attic]

A true rebel presence on New York’s legendary downtown “no-wave” scene, Parisian expat poet and singer Descloux embraced an eclectic mix of rock, punk, funk, and African soul styles. She also had an ear for killer musicians; these two standouts from her fully reissued catalog make the case with the estimable Durban Betancourt-Laverde (a funky fixture with Joan Armatrading’s ’70s touring band and on Jimmy Page’s Outrider) and a tag team that includes Brazilian-born bass aces Jamil Joanes and Jorge Degas. —Bill Murphy

CAGE THE ELEPHANT
TELL ME I’M PRETTY [RCA]

When it comes to copping vintage ’70s rock-bass tone, Daniel Tichenor nails it. On “Cry Baby,” the opening track of his band’s latest psychedelic indie-rock album, Tichenor’s muted and meandering lines groove, slide, and hammer-on their way to setting the tone for the record. His playing is far more pronounced and confident than it was on the band’s previous album, Melophobia, and songs like “Sweet Little Jean” and “Cold Cold Cold” demonstrate Tichenor’s growth as a bassist. —Jon D’Auria

NAYTRONIX
MR. DIVINE [City Slang]

In an era of rampant irony, this sometimes psychedelic offering from Tune-Yards bass man/vocalist Nate Brenner is a beacon of warm sincerity. Thanks to its distinctive production and old-school drum machines, Mr. Divine’s groovy yet thoughtful songs—Africa-tinged, quirky, and catchy—are clearly in the lineage of masters like David Byrne, Arthur Russell, and William Onyeabor. Best of all, everything is built around Brenner’s primo bass lines. Highlights: “Back in Time” and the wistful “I Don’t Remember.” —E.E. Bradman

LA SERA
MUSIC FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC TO [Polyvinyl]

Katy Goodman is best known for wielding her cherished Fender Musicmaster as a member of Brooklyn’s indie-rock darlings Vivian Girls, but she’s also churned plenty of waves fronting La Sera, whose fourth album is produced by none other than Ryan Adams. From the boogie-chugging “High Notes” to the alt-country “Shadow of Your Love,” her solid, ever-reliable chops make this an album that lives up to its title. —Bill Murphy

SEFFARINE
DE FEZ A JEREZ [Seffarine]

On this gorgeous intersection of Spanish flamenco, Arabic and Andalusian music, Persian classical, and jazz, bass takes a deep backseat to otherworldly vocalist Lamea Naki and outstanding oud player/flamenco guitarist Nat Hulskamp. But the contributions of Damian Erskine (and on three songs, Bill Athens on upright) are undeniable. Erskine, sometimes nimble, sometimes droning, helps songs like “Masari” hang together; on “Awraq” he stays low, putting in just the right runs and muted passages. Likewise, Athens is tasteful but essential on “October” and “Zagharit.” —E.E. Bradman

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