Not just for bass aficionados, but for all that relish in the art of the solo performer.

KLAENG Records 076

Phil Donkin (double bass)

Recorded May 2021

Phil Donkin releases few albums under his own name, but when he does, he makes them count. This latest offering is an all-acoustic solo album of double bass and is as compelling as any in the genre.

Possessing a big and full sound on the bass he can be heard propelling bands across Europe. Playing at the forefront of contemporary jazz and improvised music, the bassist finds himself in demand in a wide variety of settings and has also released albums under his own name on Whirlwind Recordings, The Gate was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, and more recently Value featuring his band his band Phil Donkin’s Masterfrown in 2019 on the NWog Records.

After two group albums featuring musicians from the US and Europe, Berlin based Donkin elects to take the solo route for this his third recording, albeit with the use of overdubbing.

In an enjoyable and absorbing set the bassist provides us with some strong thematic material that uses arco and pizzicato techniques to create ensemble passages that focus on melody or texture and use of dynamics to colour the music.

The aptly titled ‘There Are Rumblings’ delivers a full toned hard hitting piece that immediately grabs the attention prior to the decidedly quieter and lyrical ‘Numb Worm’ with its opening arco bass lines that weave a counterpoint through the melody before giving way to Donkin plucking the strings in a strong improvisation that is then re-joined by the bowed basses in a subtle accompaniment.

A piece resurrected and given a new lease of life, ‘Numb Worm’ was heard the earlier release Value in a very different setting, the strength of Donkin’s writing is clear to hear.

Throughout the album, Donkin delights in throwing in a curveball or two. From the delicate and delicate shadings of ‘Numb Worm’ he follows up with ‘Blues Correlation’ that again has fleet lines tumbling from the bassist’s fingers leaving the listener to revel in the sound of the bass.

This is in stark contrast to ‘The Crucifixion’ composed by Samuel Barber with Donkin’s overdubbed bass creating a deeply sonorous ensemble. The music here is so arresting that it is easy to lose oneself in the beauty of the music and different nuances that each of the overdubbed basses create.

As if to lighten the mood, ‘Disconnection’ breaks the spell of Barber’s composition with Donkin’s creating a wonderous ensemble of pizzicato bass lines that offer relief, before ‘Value’ from Donkin’s album of the same name is also laid bare to solo investigation. No overdubs, just pure melody.

The closing ‘Saturation Point’ again is for lone double bass and brings the album to a conclusion that is as strong as the opening number. Far from reaching saturation point this most satisfying album will find you reaching for the repeat button.

Not just for bass aficionados, but for all that relish in the art of the solo performer.

Reviewed by Nick Lea