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Review – And Nothing But The Bass (Jazz Dimensions)

“As we know, bassists always have to stand in the shadows of their fellow band members. The answer is to play a solo which is as meaningful as possible in concerts, or to record a whole solo album on which you show that you also know how to handle all the other instruments. But there is a more logical route, as is shown by Steve Lawson with his – literally – solo bass album.

The CD “and nothing but the bass” represents a document of Lawson’s live work as a soloist in London during the first half of 2000. Apart from one piece – “Bittersweet” – on which pianist and co-producer Jez Carr contributes a few notes in the studio, everything was recorded live in front of an audience and without overdubs. This all takes place in a peaceful atmosphere, almost reminiscent of chamber music. You will not find displays of power playing à la Stuart Hamm here.

Essentially these are duo pieces “in disguise”. With the aid of his loop sampler (Lexicon JamMan), Lawson plays duets with himself, plays around his own parts, and lays down tapped chord foundations under bass solos which are sometimes squeezed through a distortion unit. The great thing is that this approach never descends into guitar territory, even on the 6-string bass. A few mistakes have been left in the recording, as has the audience applause, but these could have been cut here and there.

On the last piece – “Pillow Mountain” – Lawson shows that, with a few electronic gizmos, even very “unbasslike” sounds can be produced. A wonderfully melancholic fretless solo is played over an underlying mood reminiscent of Brian Eno. Beautiful.”

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