LIVING HOPE [La Note Bleue Productions] The French bass master adds to his legacy with this tour-de-force outing featuring his current quartet, with drummer Nicolas Viccaro, pianist Gregory Privat, and Stephane Chausse on sax and EWI. “New Life” and “Nuestra Esperanza” set the pace. The former melodically ties together unrelated changes, while jointly riding swung-two and fast-six pulses; the latter is marked by a blinding unison gypsy-jazz line and pivoting between half-and double-time feels. DiPiazza’s initial solo turn—a neck-spanning, rapid-fire fingerpicked affair—occurs on the bright bossa “Living Hope,” while his probing support drives the gypsy burner “Caravella.” On the ballad side, DiPiazza’s fretless-emulating bridge helps him sing “Ballad for Z,” the piano/bass duet “Inheritance,” and the solo chordal showstopper, “Aya Sofia.”
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME [vulfpeck .com] Funk crusaders Vulfpeck have made good on releasing an album a year, and The Beautiful Game proves that they’re packing the quality into the quantity. As usual, Joe Dart shows up in full force with tremendous bass work, including his marathon fingerstyle display on “Dean Town,” his Jackson 5 homage “1 for 1, DiMaggio,” and his soulful disco feel on “Cory Wong.” For Dart, it’s always about tone and groove, and on this album, they’re both colossal.
PRANA [Independent] If you’ve ever appreciated how tricky it can be to support a virtuoso without blending into the background, you’ll dig this album. Vik Momjian’s relaxed command of this complex Middle Eastern music strikes the perfect balance alongside jaw-dropping oud player Dimitris Mahlis and drummer Toss Panos: Momjian’s tone is perfect, he’s just right in the mix, and whether he’s smoothly doubling Mahlis or deep in the pocket with Panos, his high-level chops never overpower the soulfulness in his playing. Highlight: “Steal the Bride.”
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
DISSOCIATION [Cooking Vinyl] The sixth album from experimental mathcore trailblazers Dillinger Escape Plan is bittersweet: Just before it was released, the band announced it’d be Dillinger’s final record. But Liam Wilson and his bandmates decided to go out with a bang, and on Dissociation, they do exactly that. Wilson’s tireless playing serves as the lightning rod for his outfit’s erratic time-signature changes and chaotic riff attacks, as he grounds and conducts the music in a way that is nothing short of exhilarating.
RICHARD PINHAS & BARRY CLEVELAND
MU [Cuneiform] On this dazzling soundscape co-curated by guitarists Pinhas and Cleveland, elements of otherworldly fusion, film scoring, and sound design coalesce into 45 minutes of atmospheric magic. The nineminute opener is a gorgeous intro, but the fun really starts when Michael Manring kicks in on the album’s opus, the 25-minute “I Wish I Could Talk in Technicolor.” In full back-pickup mode, Manring lays it down with just the right notes, invoking Jaco, Mick Karn, and his own deep discography in a vast sea of beautiful noise. Bonus: the double-tracked and reversed parts on “Zen/ Unseen.”
ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO
LIVE UNBOUND [Skol Productions] Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick’s trio is a jazz/funk/fuze-imbued unit made all the broader and more nuanced by the presence of Nathan Peck on his 1917 Pfretzschner acoustic bass. Peck’s open-eared harmonic and rhythmic support (along with sympathetic drummer Matt Zebroski) ranges from rapid riff-doubling on “Culture Shock” and open-A funk inventions on “99/09” to Latin-edged dancing on a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” The best of Peck’s three solos is his expressive turn on the 6/8 “Still Loving You.”
BASSORAMA [albertorigoni .com] Italian bassist and composer Alberto Rigoni has released quite a few records in his career, but his latest, Bassorama, is his most ambitious and impressive project yet. Enlisting a slew of collaborators from the bass world—including Doug Wimbish, Stu Hamm, Steve Lawson, and Nik West—Rigoni keeps the focus on the low end, trading tasteful chops with some of the best in the biz. “Dr. Who,” “The Alien,” and “Funk Me” show just how deep Rigoni’s range can go.
THE GET DOWN (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM THE NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES) [iTunes] This delicious collection harkens back to the ’70s, a time when the pop charts overflowed with epic bass lines: Johnny Flippin throws down underneath the Fatback Band’s “Are You Ready (Do the Bus Stop),” Scott Edwards rocks Donna Summers’ “Bad Girls,” Roderick Chandler takes care of business for CJ & Co. on “Devil’s Gun,” Wilton Felder conjures magic on the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” and a young Bootsy Collins stokes the flames on Lyn Collin’s “Think (About It).” Other tunes—including Leon Bridges’ version of the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” the Nile Rodgers/Christina Aguilera throwback “Telepathy,” and Janelle Monae’s Michael Jackson homage “Hum Along and Dance,” complete with Greg Phillinganes’ soundalike synth-bass—keep the faith.