BP Recommends: April 2016 CD & Book Reviews by Bass Players for Bass Players - BassPlayer.com

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

For the first time in his eight-album output, Janek Gwizdala goes solo, using only his Fodera Signature 5-string and various pedals (including a looper), to redefine what a modern “solo bass” record can encompass and accomplish.
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JANEK GWIZDALA
AMERICAN ELM [bandcamp.com]

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For the first time in his eight-album output, Janek Gwizdala goes solo, using only his Fodera Signature 5-string and various pedals (including a looper), to redefine what a modern “solo bass” record can encompass and accomplish. The intimate setting spotlights Gwizdala’s considerable grasp of harmony, phrasing, soloing, and creativity, as he layers chords, melodies, bass lines, and percussive pops and scratches into compelling soundscapes. Highlights range from an imaginatively re-harmed “Day Tripper” to the epic, Americana-tinted “Coming Home” and “American Elm,” both built on memorable melodies and thoughtful sonic and thematic development, with the latter culminating in a sprawling improvisation summoning Pat Metheny’s guitar-synth sound. —CHRIS JISI

PANIC! AT THE DISCO
DEATH OF A BACHELOR [Fueled By Ramen]

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With Dallon Weekes’ recent departure, multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie took on the bass duties for Panic’s fifth album, proving himself an adequate replacement. While the vocalist’s lines aren’t quite as adventurous as Weekes’ parts, Urie does an ample job of supporting his Sinatra-esque vocals on the album’s title track, and he impresses on the funky number “Hallelujah.” His most triumphant moments, however, are on “The Good, the Bad and the Dirty” and the unexpected swing number “Crazy=Genius.” —JON D’AURIA

BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS
CALL IT WHAT IT IS [Stax/Concord]

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Still just as compelling an activist as he is a musician, Ben Harper has plenty to get off his chest on his first album with the Innocent Criminals since 2007’s Lifeline. Dusty blues inform the title track, a bold calling-out of police brutality that finds Juan Nelson digging into a marauding low end with his Fender Jazz. Further on, Nelson unfurls cascading melodic lines with a West African feel on “How Dark Is Gone” and rocks out strong on “Pink Balloon.” Raw and stylistically diverse, the entire set marks a thrilling return for the band that helped define Harper’s rootsy sound. —BILL MURPHY

MATTHEW MONTFORT
ANCIENT TRADITIONS—FUTURE POSSIBILITIES: RHYTHMIC TRAINING THROUGH THE TRADITIONS OF AFRICA, BALI, AND INDIA [ancient-future.com]

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You can view this deceptively slim masterwork from a few different angles: as a friendly yet serious appetizer on three of the most sophisticated rhythm systems on earth; a chance to work on your rhythmic sightreading; a three-culture dip with matching mp3s for your ears; a gateway to exotic spices, complete with MIDI files, for your songwriting or drumming; or a fun way to organically digest complex time signatures. No matter how you slice it, this scholarly labor of love is packed with rich flavors for those patient enough to harvest them. —E.E. BRADMAN

HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES
HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES [Republic-UMe]

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This star-studded supergroup formed by Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp pays homage to Coop’s early-’70s drinking crew. Their eponymous debut boasts the likes of Paul McCartney, Dennis Dunaway, and Kip Winger on both covers and originals, but it’s little-known Depp cohort Bruce Witkin who handles the lion’s share of bass duties. He attacks awesomely nostalgic re-imaginings of classic rock favorites like “Break On Through,” “Manic Depression,” and “Itchycoo Park” with crisp tone and a punk attitude that elevates the performances of the other ensemble members. His take on the Who’s “My Generation,” different from John Entwistle’s but just as bombastic, demonstrates that it’s the spirit of the song, not the exact notes, that make “My Generation” part of the canon. —FREDDY VILLANO

SIA
THIS IS ACTING [RCA]

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This Is Acting consists of Sia songs that weren’t picked up by A-listers such as Beyoncé, Adele, and Rihanna, but the seriously successful Aussie songwriter had much better luck with bass players. Cameron Deyell, Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, and hip-hop synth pro T-Minus all contribute highlights, including the bouncy funk lines on “House On Fire,” the fast-paced low end on “Sweet Design,” and the marching electric work on “Alive.” —JON D’AURIA

TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND
LET ME GET BY [Concord]

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Vocalist Susan Tedeschi and guitarist Derek Trucks continue their focus on strong songs, showcasing their considerable gifts in a wide range of styles and feels while retaining their signature Southern sound. This plays perfectly into the versatile paws of Tim Lefebvre, making his TTB recording debut after ably anchoring the band’s endless road run in recent years. Lefebvre is liquid and melodic on the first single “Anyhow” and the swung funk of “Don’t Know What,” he provides the sub-hook in the 7/4-infused “Laugh About It Now,” and he moves from a Motown pocket to free-form neck climbing behind Trucks and Kofi Burbridge’s flute on “I Want More.” —CHRIS JISI

BLOC PARTY
HYMNS [BMG]

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Four songs into Bloc Party’s fifth album, it becomes evident that even beyond the complete lineup overhaul that brought in bassist Justin Harris, things are much different. From the electro-rave sound of “The Love Within” to the country-rock vibe of “The Good News,” Hymns debuts an entirely new style that has Harris juggling between playing dark synths and plucking away on mellow indie ballads. Overall, it’s a solid first effort on an album that continually keeps you guessing. —JON D’AURIA

IGGY POP
POST POP DEPRESSION [Loma Vista]

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From the opening strains and mud-thick bass line of “Gardenia,” the lush single from Iggy Pop’s 17th (and possibly last) album, the sonic direction is clear: Lust for Life, only heavier. Josh Homme asserts himself as producer and bassist, whether it’s the distorted edge he brings to “American Valhalla” or the in-your-face rhythmic punch and curvaceous melody of “German Days.” Bowie himself would be proud. —BILL MURPHY

SAVAGES
ADORE LIFE [Matador]

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After unleashing a signature gritty bass tone on 2013’s Silence Yourself, Ayse Hassan and her London-based rock outfit are back with a vengeance with no sophomore slump in sight. Still intense, Hassan’s note choices and rhythmic variations show more maturity and refinement; the hard-handed pick work on her Fender Precision is the star of the show, especially on “Sad Person,” “The Answer,” and—to be perfectly honest—the entire ten-song album. —JON D’AURIA

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