June 24, 2024

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CD review: Barre Phillips – End To End: Video

End to End is a solo bass album by one of the great pioneers of the idiom. Over the last fifty years Barre Phillips, California-born but long a resident of France, has periodically issued solo recordings, considering them the musical equivalent of diary entries (the first one, in 1968, was called Journal violone), updates on his ever-evolving relationship to his chosen instrument.

This one, he says, will be the last of his albums in this format, so it is of special interest to those who have followed the story so far and, indeed, to anyone wishing to hear a masterful improviser at work, refocussing lessons learned in the course of a long, creative life. “It’s the end of a cycle,” says Barre, now 83, of the present recording. “Not a summing up, but the last pages of a journal that began fifty years ago.”

Just one man and his bass…it might sound like a lonely path, but Barre Phillips has always been up to the task, and in fact, he was the first musician to record an album of solo double bass way back in 1968, and he’s continued to occasionally release them for decades. End to End, his latest for ECM Records, is stated to be his last, the final chapter of his ‘Journal Violone’ series. Recorded at Studios-La-Buissonne in the south of France, and produced by Manfred Eicher, End to End is warm & inviting, as if you are sitting in a room with Phillips as he takes you on a musical journey with his bass, plucking the strings and delivering cascades of elastic notes on one track, conjuring up all sorts of howls and chaotic noise with his bow on another, or slapping the neck for percussive, melodic effects during others. There are three lengthy suites here, all broken up into parts, so they basically segue into each other, but the tracks all have a different feel thanks to Barre’s attack on his instrument, which is constantly changing and shuffling. His bowed parts are almost cello-like, “Quest Pt. 5 1” especially mournful, but when he’s picking, his acrobatic runs up and down the fretboard deliver a somber yet highly melodic quality.

Probably not a release for the casual listener, End to End is still a remarkable achievement considering all the unique tones and colors Barre Phillips has created here with just one bass and nothing else. If he’s going out with this one, he’s gone out on top.

Track Listing

01 Quest, Pt. 1 1
02 Quest, Pt. 2 1
03 Quest, Pt. 3 1
04 Quest, Pt. 4 1
05 Quest, Pt. 5 1
06 Inner Door, Pt. 1 1
07 Inner Door, Pt. 2 1
08 Inner Door, Pt. 3 1
09 Inner Door, Pt. 4 1
10 Outer Window, Pt. 1 1
11 Outer Window, Pt. 2 1
12 Outer Window, Pt. 3 1
13 Outer Window, Pt. 4 1

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