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April 21, 2005

Covering the Basses

Metro Active (CA):

Here's a little known fact about the tune "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. The second time through, the chord change in the bass line is not played by the electric bass, but is actually carried by a human voice. It's a subtle change, but it really kicks the tune off on the right foot. It's yet another example of the remarkable similarity between the sounds of the contrabass and the vocal output of a large gentleman. Whether it's the aforementioned soul groove or Pimen in Mussorgsky's opera, Boris Godunov, vocal chords can give wood and strings a good run for the money most nights.

Last Saturday night the Cayuga Vault featured not one, but two outstanding human bassists: Clockwork's Steven Saxon and The Idea Of North's Andrew Piper. Both were able to conjure up the sweet sonorities of the bull fiddle while also propelling their a cappella ensembles through the chord changes. Saxon is especially tasteful in his rhythmic phrasing. Whether the group was doing bebop or soul, his lines were both stylistically in the pocket and impressive as all hell.

It's a shame that a cappella has been so maligned in the commercial music world. No offense to the members of Manhattan Transfer, but it's too bad their reworked jazz standards are more well-known than the awesome albums put out by groups like Miriam Makeba's first group, The Manhattan Brothers. It's also a shame that Clockwork's outstanding arrangement of Radiohead's tune Creep was met with absolutely no recognition from the crowd. As tenor Eric Freeman beautifully rendered the chorus, people thought it was a joke. At least they recognized the new arrangement of Fields of Gold. I hope that Clockwork's next record will feature "Exit Music for a Film." It's pretty hard to laugh at that chorus.

Posted by acapnews at April 21, 2005 12:16 AM