Reimer | Setzer, Together
Reviewer’s confession: I brought this disc purely on the basis of its ad slogan: "Only voice and bass guitar - does this work?" The link came from a TalkBass forums byte, the CD came from CDBaby
and the CD was in my hands within a week (bless you internet). The slogan appealed to me because I’m trying to work out something similar myself, something basic and folk-y using only basic bass for melody, rhythm and chordal movement, and a call and response vocal on top. Reimer|Setzer approach it more from a Eurojazz angle: Sabine Reimer is schooled in standard phrase and projection, bending up to a note, relying on timbre for expression (alas, I can’t think of a direct parallel). Markus Setzer plays 7 and 6 string bass instruments (yes, pretty exotic stuff) like a jazz guitarist does counterpoint and chords. Which bugs me a bit because when you’ve got six strings and above, you’re playing guitar, not bass per se. You might as well be playing jazz chords all the time: at least Setzer steps out occasionally with a slap routine to reinforce the bass angle. It reminded me of a time seeing a six-bassist doing jazz cuts (could be Soup Plus in Sydney); I was disappointed he only played chords. Sure it sounded deeper and warmer, but some of that minimal magic of the bass was lost. Bass is about simple lines and foundation. Which makes me think that cutting it back from the jazz-chords angle (and Setzer definitely plays in the vein of the modern virtuoso) and keeping it limited and grounded: most bass remember is just dum-de-dum-dum. If your bass tone and vocal interlocking is tight, related and rhythmically melodic (that is, implying rhythmic counterpoint), you should have enough foundation (my other thinking lies with the expressive supremity of the timbales: two drums and percussion, so much funky freedom). But back to Reimer|Setzer. The music is thoroughly proficient; the range and vocal/song choice a little limited (some covers might’ve anchored this better, a broader lyrical range and attack) and almost same-y in the end, which is regretable 'cos it’s a very interesting duo-experiment. I might’ve opted for a different range of bass tones, but then again I play a Warwick 4. But in the end it does work, it’s a tasteful exercise in jazz motions.