Monday, September 12, 2011

Eddie Gomez: Everything I Want to Know About Jazz Bass

© Andrea Canter

Everything I want to know about jazz bass, I can learn from Eddie Gomez. How the bassist sets the pulse, how the bassist keeps everyone in time, how the bassist sets the artistic tone and feel, how the bassist augments the melodic direction, how the bass can sing a line or become a chordal support system. The only thing I can’t figure out from Eddie Gomez is why so many “listeners” tune out during the bass solo. When Gomez solos, there should be a bright spotlight.

Fortunately Eddie Gomez played Thursday night at the Artists Quarter where, by and large, the bass solo gets as much respect as the main theme. For one thing, the AQ isn’t the sort of place you go to just to hang out—it’s not glitzy, there’s no food (beyond take-out from neighboring joints), there’s no special beer or wine list. People come to the AQ to listen to jazz. And then there’s Davis Wilson, the “man at the door” who doubles as emcee and sternly cautions the audience to “sit back and listen to these cats” without adding their conversations to the mix. Davis’s warnings were not necessary Thursday night, as Gomez and his sterling partners (pianist Stefan Karlsson and drummer Rodrigo Villanueva) held our rapt attention through two strong sets, from the first swinging notes of “On Green Dolphin Street” to the last sharp syncopations of “Solar.” In between we were treated to a master class in double-stops, hopscotch walking basslines, cello-like bowing, and telepathic trio empathy.

It wasn’t all Eddie Gomez. A Swede now based in Texas, Karlsson proved to be not only a stellar interpreter but a thoughtful composer as well, drawing particular applause for the exquisite dissonant voicings and Jarrettish lyricism of his “Tri-Kings.” And Villanueva was a man of many moods and many tools, using a variety of sticks, mallets and brushes for both subtle and aggressive play, particularly assertive on “All Blues” with rimshots, vibrating cymbals and fearsome rattles on the snare and toms.

Most often, visiting artists who come to the AQ find local talent to fill out the ensemble, and most of the time, it works well. But hearing a band as the leader intended—with long-standing cohorts who know each other’s artistic mindset—is a treat in any situation, and with the Eddie Gomez Trio, the perfect context for a bass lesson.

Photos: (Top to bottom) Eddie Gomez; Stefan Karlsson; Rodrigo Villanueva, at the Artists Quarter on September 8, 2011. (All photos by Andrea Canter)