Meinrad Kneer

Vocabularies
Evil Rabbit Records ERR 30

Jorge Roeder

El Sueolo Mio

No Label No #

Dedicated to exploring the intricacies of the double bass, Peruvian-American Jorge Roeder and German Meinrad Kneer are the latest string players to try their hand, finger and bow with solo bass work. Kneer who plays with the likes of Ab Baars and Gerhard Gschlößl dedicates his 13 selection to applying extended technique to the bull fiddler’s body and wound strings. Meanwhile Roeder, who works with Shai Masestro and Ryan Keberle, is more committed to the mainstream – he also plays standards here. But his interpretation of South American themes lifts most of his 13 selections past typical expectations.

Preferring to play pizzicato, Roeder mates thick twangs, logical progressions and methodical strums, to themes that are often relaxed and amiable, but with enough oomph to prevent most from becoming lulling. Although his treatment of “I'll Remember April” is a pretty standard run-though, he fares better on two pieces related to Ornette Coleman. With originality he backs into the head of Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” before working through to the ending with vibrated pulses and jerky swabs. The preceding “Rambler”, dedicated to early Coleman associate Charlie Haden works as a presage to the second tune, including supple string strums and final scaled down, symmetrical plucks. Still, many of the more spectacular tracks reflect the music of his southern hemisphere heritage. The Peruvian Andes melody of “Solo Juntos” for instance soars from paused rhythmic slaps to a propelled vivace bounce. On the other hand, “Santa Rosita”, dedicated to Julian Lage, works out the essence of power stroking. As low pulses squirm and echo, the turnaround creates variations on the unfussy theme as dynamic expression solidifies the repeated pattern until a final wooden echo.

Wood, skin and wound catgut are more obvious on Vocabularies as Kneer works his way through solo excursion vocabularies. While Roeder’s playing could be characterized as clean and dependent on supple string motion, Kneer’s concepts emphasize the wood of the instrument and the thickly wound tautness of the strings. Knife-sharp arco patterns and super-staccato pizzicato thumps maintain vibrating pressure throughout. That doesn’t mean there aren’t sequences of delicacy and elegance though. For example, “Des Nächtens” includes sweeping string variations that could work within the confines of chamber music. But by its climax, vibrating sweetness is replaced by fading sul ponticello contrasts.

More generic are tracks such as “Musik für Schmetterlinge” and “Short Story l”. The latter lives up to its name by displaying plucked theme variations, as the track moves in concentric circles. Eventually neck-shaking triple strumming predominates before relaxing into less frenetic rhythms. “Musik für Schmetterlinge” on the other hand has the string motions pitched so tautly that it resembles a piccolo or a slide-whistle before descending to low-pitched patterning. Staccato twists mixed with resounding pokes are part of a strategy to expose as many variables and techniques as possible. There are points, as on “Short Story lI” though where twanging is so pointed that the quaking timbres move past instrumental to almost electronic sound manipulation.

Overall though the narratives are linked to double bass playing as much as they are chapters from the literature about alternative string creativity. In fact, the penultimate “Navigation Spatiale” is an entire essay in articulating knife-sharp, ear-wrenching s strokes that the subsequent triple stroking is so kinetic it too seems to be electrified. Thinner strokes propel the theme right onto the final “Music for Bumble Bees”. Rather than mere buzzing however, the concluding strokes set up a drone of exquisite low-pitches that shift and swell with the power of waves breaking on a rocky sea shore.

The bass can have many singular musical faces. Two of the most profound are expressed on these solo CDS.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: El: 1. El Sueolo Mio 2. Chabuca Limeña 3. Solo Juntos 4. El Plebeyo 5. Bounce 6. I'll Remember April 7. Thing-Thing 8. Patrona 9. Santa Rosita 10. Rambler 11. Lonely Woman 12. Silencio de um Minuto 13. Les Lapins

Personnel: El: Jorge Roeder (bass)

Track Listing: Vocabularies: 1. Sternsans 2. Short Story l 3. Mixed Media 4. Die Auseinandersetzung 5. Sketch l 6. Des Nächtens 7. Sketch ll 8. Short Story lI 9. Musik für Schmetterlinge 10. Sketch III 11. Short Story lll 12. Navigation Spatiale 13. Music for Bumble Bees

Personnel: Vocabularies: Meinrad Kneer (bass)