Toronto’s Rich Brown is one of those players that in-the-know guys love. He’s had some big gigs, especially with Steve Coleman & 5 Elements and its conceptual cousin Dapp Theory, but he’s not on the tip of the average Joe or Jane’s tongue. Maybe it’s because he isn’t based in the high-profile L.A. or New York scenes, but whatever the reason, Rich Brown deserves all of your attention. On Between Heaviness & Here, he’s given us one of the most musical solo bass records I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a few too many, let me tell you). This album is solo in the true sense of the word; Brown plays all of what you hear, including fretted, fretless, and on one track, upright. There are no drums or beats. Just bass. The brilliance is that instead of being seduced to fill the sonic vacuum meaninglessly, Brown is consistently lyrical, sensitive, and committed to the integrity of each piece, whether it demonstrates his prodigious chops or not. On “Lua,” a harmonically rich object lesson in chordal technique, Brown paints a lush and evolving picture. With “Kofi,” Brown again submits his prowess to the rhythmic and melodic demands of a song, this one a lilting African groove. Brown’s sophisticated fretless concept wrings all of the expressive potential out of the instrument, especially when he covers esteemed Swedish electronic outfit Little Dragon’s “Twice.” It’s refreshing indeed to listen to an all-bass record that feels coherent and complete.
Janek Gwizdala, The Space in Between [janekgwizdala.com]
The word virtuoso gets thrown around a lot, but Janek Gwizdala is one of those guys who really earns it.