The Bass(is) For All Jazz

The Bassist (Homage to Diversity)
Richard Davis (Palmetto Records)

By Rick Forrest

A man goes to an exotic tropical island for a vacation. As the boat nears the island, he notices the constant sound of drumming coming from the island. As he gets off the boat, he asks the first native he sees how long the drumming will go on. The native casts about nervously and says, "Very bad when the drumming stops."

At the end of the day, the drumming is still going and is starting to get on the man's nerves. So he asks another native when the drumming will stop. The native looks as if he's just been reminded of something very unpleasant. "Very bad when the drumming stops," he says, and hurries off. After a couple of days with little sleep, our traveler is finally fed up. He grabs the nearest native, slams him up against a tree, and shouts, "What happens when the drumming stops?!!"

The native gulps. "Bass solo."

Well, there's no drumming on this recording, and that's not a bad thing. Bassist Richard Davis, whose resume includes work with such diverse artists as Ahmad Jamal, Shirley Horn, Rahssan Roland Kirk, Earl Hines, and Billy Cobham, teams up with equally adept pianist John Hicks for a new Palmetto Jazz release titled The Bassist (Homage to Diversity).

And diversity is just what you get. From the lushness of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," to the down-home blues of "C.C. Rider," Davis bows and plucks his way through ten tunes with a simple yet full sound that makes other instrumentation superfluous. Davis's liner notes compliment his playing by giving a context to his selection of repertoire. Hicks's piano playing provides beautiful accompaniment to what is typically thought of as a supporting instrument. The selections are not overly thought out. They're just a fun jam between two players who obviously like and respect each other.

So what if the drumming stops, when the bass solos are like this.

You can hear Rick Forrest each weeknight on WFPK's Jazz, Etc., program. Next month, he takes over for Tim Roberts as the LMN "Jazzin'" columnist.