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Dominic Duval

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During the '90s, Dominic Duval was one of the two most active bassists on New York's free jazz scene (the other being William Parker). Few musicians were more dedicated to the principles of free improvisation than Duval. While he read adequately and was capable of playing other jazz idioms, absolute freedom of expression was paramount in Duval's art. He had a prodigious technique; Duval played the bass like an elongated guitar, so fast were his lines and textures. He seldom played the traditional role of a bassist in an ensemble. Rather than provide a low-pitched harmonic/rhythmic foundation, Duval more often than not played like a horn player, interacting freely with other members of the ensemble. Duval's recording career didn't begin in earnest until he was around 50, but he spent the years afterward making up for lost time. He unquestionably became one of the most-recorded free jazz bassists on the planet. Beginning in the mid-'90s, an association with producer Bob Rusch's C.I.M.P. and Cadence Jazz labels and producer Leo Feigin's Leo Records led to Duval's appearances on an extraordinary number of albums. It can even be said that the sheer volume of his recordings worked against him, in that few of his albums could be called essential; virtually everything Duval recorded presented him in a positive light, yet there's so much to choose from, one hardly knows where to begin. One place might be Nightbird Inventions, a solo disc made for Cadence Jazz on which Duval electronically manipulated the bass to fascinating ends. Other collaborations of note included the band Trio X, a cooperative trio with saxophonist Joe McPhee and drummer Jay Rosen, and his various projects with the shamefully underrated saxophonist Mark Whitecage. Duval also recorded and toured intermittently as a member of pianist Cecil Taylor's band. After battling lymphoma for a number of years, Duval died in July of 2016. ~ Chris Kelsey

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April 27, 1945 in New York, NY

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s