One can come to the album for Bisio’s impeccable bass playing but get quickly entranced by Hill’s vocalese
Origin Records 82873
Michael Bisio (Bass), Timothy Hill (voice, guitar)
Recorded March 31, 2022
This is a very intriguing album. The two artists blend elements of classical, jazz, and folk music. Bisio is a melodic and immensely talented bassist. Listing Hill as “voice” is too simplistic.
He sings and chants as a lead and as an accompaniment. The Tibetan chanting, referred to as throat singing, coupled with a jazz bass gives this album an otherworldly sound. It was well recorded in one continuous take on an afternoon.
Tibetan chanters, are one of the variations of “Throat Singers”. Chanters, like Hill, can produce more than one pitch simultaneously. It sounds like an instrument that has been recovered from ancient times. The emanation of sound from the throat is different from singing in the traditional sense.
It has a deepness, has multiple pitches, and is very humanistic. It can sound like a low moan or a mid-range humming sound. Tibetan chanting dates from the 12th century.
In Tibet, chanting arose as religious music to perpetuate music practices that would have been otherwise lost. The Tibetan style of chanting achieves very low pitches that have a visceral impact on the listener. The low chanting is great when Bisio plays arco bass.
The album includes three songs from the great American songbook that are sung by Hill. An additional three songs were composed by giants of improvised music – John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Henry Grimes. The remaining three songs were written by Bisio and Hill.
The juxtaposition of the modern western style with the ancient eastern vocals produces a unique combination that I have never heard before.
Bisio has played bass with Matthew Shipp’s trio and his duo since 2009. Bisio has also played and recorded with Joe McPhee. Bisio has fifteen CDs as a leader. Hill has an extensive background with various vocal groups more associated with classical music than pop or jazz.
His discography includes over thirty records as a soloist, featured artist, or guest artist. The NY Times named Hill “…. a virtuoso of the Tibetan chanting technique.” He has an amazing degree of control over his voice and pitch and manages to generate deep, beautiful overtones when chanting.
The bass playing is prominent throughout the album as is to be expected. But his interplay with the vocalizing is the treat of this album. Hill’s voice is generally in the lower range complementing Bisio’s bass playing. Hill’s guitar adds additional warmth to the album.
“Law Years” by Ornette Coleman is treated to an introductory bass solo with Bisio stretching the notes as he plays with the melody. The guitar enters gently but quickly picks up the pace with the bass. Hill’s vocal wordlessly floats on top of the instruments varying from low to high notes.
It gracefully concludes with arco bass that transitions to the song “I Fall in Love Too Easily”.
“Hearsay” is a short song with guitar and bass playing together with some wordless singing. The interplay ranges over the instruments with some arco bass setting it off. Hill plays more guitar on this song than the rest. He does not overplay the guitar, playing subdued notes and chords.
The great American songbook is represented in three additional cuts: “My One and Only Love”, “I Fall in Love Too Easily”, and “For All We Know”.
Here Hills sings in a more traditional jazz voice but with exceptional phrasing and timing of the words. Again, there are wordless elements mixed with the song’s lyrics. The guitar work complements the bass and the songs feel more “jazzy.”
One can come to the album for Bisio’s impeccable bass playing but get quickly entranced by Hill’s vocalese. Throat singing within a jazz context is beautiful with spiritual roots that can be mournful as well as uplifting. The throat singing makes this album a different listening experience from other duo albums.