Emotion before style.

I get given or sent an alarming number of CDs. Most weeks a couple will drop through the letter box, some with me having been emailed beforehand, others just sent to the p.o. box address on the website. Most of them because people think what they do is stylistically close to what I do, and I might dig it. Some just because people like what I do and assume (reasonably often correctly) that if they connect with my music, it might work the other way round. Some just because they feature loads of bass.

NAMM is the worst place for the ‘loads of bass’ CDs – ‘you love this, steve, it’s got tonnes of great bass playing on it’, or ‘it’s solo bass, you’ll love it’… etc. etc. Same with Cds featuring looping…

What this doesn’t take into consideration is that I’m rarely drawn to music because it stylistically gels with me. More often than not, it’s the emotional content and connection that overrides whatever style the person is working in, and I get the feeling that I’d love it whatever style they’d chosen as a vehicle for their muse.

I don’t like most of the solo bass music I’ve heard – there are some fairly obvious exceptions – Michael Manring, Trip Wamsley, John Lester, Arild Andersen, Jonas Hellborg and a handful of others are solo bassists that make music that really hits the spot for me. Most of it does nothing for me. Why? Because most music does nothing for me. Most music does nothing for you. The amount of music in any one style that any of us connect with is pretty small, even if we’re fanatical about metal/punk/electronica/folk/whatever. So the chances are that I’m not going to enjoy most of what people do on solo bass. The law of averages suggests that most of the music made by one person and a bass is going to miss me. Some of it I’ll enjoy on an athletic/cerebral level but still not get as ‘art’, others will just really annoy me.

I listen to very little solo bass music, other than my own (it’ll come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following my Audioscrobbler page that I listen to a lot of me – hey, I like it, I’m the target audience!) My CD collection gets some surprised looks once in a while – ‘I didn’t know you were into indie’, ‘I’m not, I just really like [insert indie band from cd collection here]’… I do have a dispensation towards certain musical styles – singer/songwriters tend to get a fair bit of airtime here, as do interesting instrumental soloists and duets (currently playing is the Cuong Vu trio – ‘Come Play With Me’, which is trumpet, bass and drums).

So, feel free to send or give me your CDs, but only on the understanding that I’ll listen to it as music, and may not even get round to that for quite a few months, and then probably won’t have time to write you a review (I still haven’t had the chance to listen to a lot of the stuff I was given at NAMM in January!) – I do still buy a fair few CDs, and get sent some hotly-anticipated stuff by friends, which often ends up getting a few spins in a row. The latest of those is the new album by The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’ – they’re Rob Jackson’s band, and the CD is fantastic. You really ought to check it out, it’s just marvellous, engaging, emotive beautiful, mellow music.

Anyway, back to you sending me music – if I don’t get back to you, please don’t be offended – it may be that I’ve just been busy, or it got lost in the huge piles of CDs on my desk, or it may be that I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I’ve got plenty of friends who aren’t really into my music, and I don’t hold their appalling lack of aesthetic judgement against them. I just pity them. Pity me.

On a slightly different note, a huge thanks from both the small person and myself to everyone who’s sent messages about The Aged Feline – your well wishes and sympathy is massively appreciated and very comforting.

Soundtrack – Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Shiny Eyed Mr Zen’.

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