November 7, 2007
"The sound of a bass definitely came as a revolution in the history of the contrebass, for the record divided that history into a "before" and an "after". The album marked the beginning of a new era for the instrument : it revealed new possibilities and new facets that had remained either unsuspected or simply unexploited beforehand.
Even thought this album was only the first opus recorded by François Rabbath, it already contained all the ingredients that would make him such a gigantic pioneer of the contrebass. Not only did he not disown the instrument's accompanying role - a remarkable accompanist -, but François Rabbath also made a great contribution towards giving the bass a distinct soloist's role, and that a early as the sixties.
Right from the very first track you can glimpse that this is not just a matter of technical prowess; the composer's intention is above all to take us into a singular universe in musis, and he does so by broadening the langage of the bass to encompass multiple styles without allowing the discourse to lose any of its coherence. It's all the more noticeable because we immediately lose all our references, indeed our prejudices or a prioris, and let ourselves be invaded by the bassist's formidable sound, notably with the bow. Without a doubt, the album's title coudn't be more appropriate.
It has to be said that the formidable technique developped by Francçois Rabbath - with no reference to any particular school - allows him unprecedented freedom and richness of expression on his instrument. Without ever becoming a demonstrative exercice, each piece on the record reveals a new facet of this Impressionnist playing, some new aspect that has forceful powers of evocation.
On the original sleeve, François Rabbath gave his own thematic index for the twelve pieces in this album, giving listeners some key indications so they could follow him through these successive tableaux or, rather, "short films".
Probably for the first time, this emancipationof the contrebass - or rather its new eloquence -was accompanied by intonation that had faultless precision, the fruit of an innovative technique that was both rational and rigorous. Some listeners will perhaps even wonder if this is indeed a bass when they hear the artificial harmony produced in the upper-treble register in "prelude à l'archet" or "bitume" and then there's also the extreme rapidity of the double-strings in "creasy course" , or the mysterious ponticello tremolos of "walpurgis".Others will be just as surprised simply to hear the instrument sing on all these compositions dedicaded to melody. And while I'm on that subject, melody, I'm particularly fond of "ode d'espagne" it's a moving composition for solo contrebass played pizzicato, and a precise evocation of the music of andalusia and the spain of de Falla and Albéniz.
Choosing to associate the contrbass with the drums was probably a first, and it turned out to be particularly efficient. The playing of Armand Molinetti, full of swing and finesse, serves the album magnificently: he polishes and punctuates the bass-lines with continual care, ensuring their legibility, and on each piece he seeks out the timbres and grooves that are the most appropriate.
There's nothing didactic or experimental about the "sound of a bass" , it directly addresses music-lovers in the widest sense of the term, which certainly explains the huge popularity this album enjoyed on release.There's no point in trying to put a label on this misic - everyone can find his own references in it - and anyway I believe it's better to listen to it as adiscovery, to just let yourself be carried away by your own emotions. François Rabbath is definitely one of those musicians whose style you can recognize right from the very first note, and it deservedly earns him a place as a particularly creative artistic genius, someone quite out of the ordinary, which is certainly why today, more than forty years after it was first released, this record - the quest for the universal cintrbass - touches and moves us so deeply."
The Sound of a Bass & N°2 (limited edition)
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