Barre Phillips - Basse Barre - DIGITAL

Barre Phillips - Basse Barre - DIGITAL

While the world of jazz was standing on the verge of getting its electric thang on in the late 1960s, one of great bassists of all time was on acoustic roads less travelled.
During a three hour solo session at St. James church Norlands in Kensington, Barre Phillips staked his claim to be not just an improviser of the highest order; but a true sound sculptor capable of drawing from his instrument such a vast array of shapes and colours that his creation is almost a form of visual art for the ears. Unaccompanied performances on the ‘bull fiddle’ remain a relatively rare beast but Phillips mastered it in no uncertain terms, as he would prove in the future with works such as End To End.

Basse Barre remains a true master class in how to combine dynamic form and kaleidoscopic content. Phillips can string together myriad melodic and rhythmic lines in the space of a few minutes to convey a sense of ever shifting landscape, pivoting from long, steady winding melodic pathways to detours into short tetchy rhythms or themes that float gracefully in space. During this trajectory his alterations of texture, when he moves from fretted to bowed lines, are remarkable. One moment he has a flamenco-like growl the next the drone and buzz of a tambura, sometimes with such an artful manipulation of overtones and decaying vibrations it sounds as if he has a fuzz pedal underfoot. Unplugged yet switched on, Barre was his own blessed wah-wah.