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Camoflage

Barre Phillips

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Album Review

Recorded live at Vancouver's Western Front in 1990, this solo recording by bassist extraordinaire Barre Phillips is a set of improvisations. They explore not only Mr. Phillips' more than considerable abilities as a musician, but the limits of the instrument itself as a method of expression. Over six tracks and nearly one hour, Phillips bows, plucks, strums, bangs on, and beats his double bass, wrenching from it every possible emotion and tone that he was capable of revealing at the time. The title track, completely bowed, opens the record. Beginning as somber reflection, it gradually builds in tension using the D and A strings as elemental forces against the bottom C and G. About midway, that taught wire snaps and a cacophony of textures and timbres emerge, offering new rhythmic possibilities and sonic architectures. "Covered," which follows at ten minutes, is Phillips' solo playing as evidenced on his solo recording for ECM. While played traditionally, the harmonic ideas are anything but. There is a complexity here that reveals how drones, when played against various rhythmic figures, accentuate dynamics and create chordal backdrops for other melodic frameworks that in turn create a framework for new drones. The recording closes with the meditative "Around Again." This is Mr. Phillips making his bass "sing" reflectively, creating the manner and syntax of a sung ballad by using the instrument's "traditional" voice and stretching its tonality over three-and-a-half octaves. Longer lines give way to short staccato bursts that are deeply expressive and sonorous. Camouflage is a recording of seeming disguises for an instrument thought to be merely a rhythmic tool to anchor soloists to a structure. In the hands of a master musician like Mr. Phillips, his 40 years as a professional have taught him that appearances in vision and sound can be deceiving.

Biography

Born: October 27, 1934 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Bassist Barre Phillips is one of a group of expatriate American musicians who have left U.S. shores for greener pastures. In the case of Phillips, the expression can be taken literally. His adopted home is a lovely and very much rural section of southern France, where he has been residing in an old chateau since the early '70s. He has been living in Europe since 1967. Phillips is part of an even more exclusive group of well-improvising musicians who have...
Full Bio
Camoflage, Barre Phillips
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