Michael Bisio – Travel Music
My first introduction to the jazz bass was on some classic hip-hop records from the early ’90 when hip-hop was in its so-called “jazz” phase. Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets heavily sampled jazz and, for me at least, the bass lines were the foundation, the driving soul of the music. It wasn’t until a few years later when I heard Charles Mungus plucking away at those strings on “Hora Decubitus” that I began to truly understand the power of the bass. As those thick strings are plucked and pulled, the vibrations emanating from the bass shake your soul. As the rhythmic foundation of jazz, the bass is arguably the most important part of a jazz record.
As a testament to that theory, here comes “Travel Music” by bassist Michael Bisio, who was most recently heard on Matthew Shipp’s excellent “Art of the Improviser.” With this release, Michael goes it alone, releasing a solo album, featuring just him and his bass. Featuring eight tracks, six of which are original compositions. The other two are interpretations of Charlie Haden’s “Human Beings” and “Alabama” by John Coltrane.
Throughout the album the songs alternates between the bass being plucked and using the bow. Within some of the individual songs themselves, Bisio alternates between the two styles. In terms of how the album flow’s this works very well as the jazzier plucked rhythmic tracks bounce, the bowed pieces glide smoothly in a classical style. Tracks like “Alabama” start with that classical vibe and then the plucks start of slowly, building up their power, all while allowing the open space around the tones to come through, giving the sound a chance to breath. This is a complex and personal recording but also very intimate.
As the very few people who actually read my blog may know, atmosphere in music is a big thing for me. It’s not so much what the music sounds like as it is the atmosphere it creates and the emotional response I have to it. My first thought before I put this album on was that I was going to miss the drums and piano or trumpet, I really wasn’t sure if the bass could do it on its own. Well it can and it does here. He has created a very powerful and moving album. One that fully creates a mood and as I listen to it, I can feel my soul vibrate along with the music.
You can take a listen to some of the songs and pick up the album on his website.