A Solo Bass Album From a "Stand Up" Guy
the pandemic wrung the blues from a formerly busy bassist
Might I interest you in a solo bass album? I hope so. Bassist Rick Rosato has been living in New York City since 2007 and touring worldwide (he's featured on vibraphonist Joel Ross' 2022 double LP The Parable of The Poet and on many other records). Then Covid hit and like many other musicians he found himself without gigs and spending a lot of time at home.
For his first album as leader, Rosato decided to go solo, inspired by his home alone pandemic experiences, the funk into which he then fell, the music that inspired him as a youngster growing up in Montreal listening to his blues guitar playing father and his musical reawakening listening to WKCR's Saturday morning blues show Something Inside of Me.
As he describes in the notes, he found it impossible after transcribing a few of the tunes to recreate them on bass so he devised other ways to deal with the harmonies and melodies found in the songs by Skip James, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt. There's also his take on a somewhat obscure Elvin Jones track ("Elvin's Guitar Blues") on the 1967 Impulse! album Heavy Sounds on which instead of drums, Jones plays guitar accompanied by bassist Richard Davis.
Using various tunings, including one inspired by Skip James that results in a deeper, more resonant sound as well as changes you'll hear produced "prepared piano" style by placing mutes and other objects around the strings and bridge, Rosato creates new ways of listening to familiar blues classics like Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" and "Cherry Ball Blues" (both found on James's Skip James Today (Vanguard VSD-79219), Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" and Mississipi John Hurt's "Boys, You're Welcome".
There's also a soulful Rosato original opener, the title tune "Homage", which you can listen to and watch being performed in the YouTube clip below and another track—a very familiar jazz tune that will go unidentified here so you can unlock it for yourself—that I've digitized at 96/24 and with Rosato's permission, linked below.
The recording and mix by John Davis at Brooklyn's Bunker Studios is direct, unadorned and powerful. The vinyl edition, mastered by Alex DeTurk at 45rpm has the weight, textures and extension you'd want to hear on a solo bass outing. The music and the sound will keep you involved throughout this short but gripping excursion into the blues—best appreciated on a system that does deep bass and can handle serious bass dynamics, but probably equally involving and enjoyable on ones that do not.
Through his explorations, Rosato says he's learned that blues "...isn't a series of licks or patterns, but it is the basis for all American popular music." You're sure to draw that conclusion as well.
On the "mystery" track I've digitized you'll also get to hear Audio Technica's new $9000 AT-MC2022 cartridge featuring a lab grown one-piece diamond cantilever-stylus assembly. It's fast, clean and...well you'll hear for yourself! You'll also hear that the record is well-pressed and quiet. Not sure which Canadian plant pressed it.
To order the record, visit Rosato's BandCamp page.
To listen to the "mystery tune" transcription from the 45rpm LP visit the TrackingAngle's SoundCloud page
And of course watch the embedded YouTube video below.