One of the things I resent most about recent trends in popular music, and the technology that drives it, has been the use of bass as a weapon instead of an instrument. Every time one of those cars drives by with the bass cranked so high that you can hear its doors rattling in the frame (a friend who worked in an auto body shop told me they would get three cars a week on average needing doors re-hung or with frames out of alignment due to the damage caused by their sound systems) I can't help think what a horrible legacy for the instrument of Charles Mingus. Subtlety and delicate phrasing have been replaced with ear-shattering assaults that passes for keeping time. How is that music?
Thankfully there are still those out there who serve as reminders that the bass is an instrument to be reckoned with and are able to create music that won't leave you bleeding from the ears. All one needs do is listen to the new disc released by bassist Jim Guttmann, Bessarabian Breakdown, to be reminded of what the instrument is capable of. Using the klezmer music of Eastern European Jews as his basis (Besserabia, now part of Moldova, lies between Russia, Romania, the Ukraine, and the Black Sea and before WWll had a Jewish population of over 200,000), Guttmann and those accompanying him on the disc have come up with some rather surprising results.
Certainly one will hear the clarinet and violin so often associated with klezmer music, but not only have they added some new twists and flavours to those arrangements, they have created some successful mixed marriages with Latin and contemporary jazz. I have to admit when I read about klezmer/Cuban, or Latin, in the press material accompanying this disc, I thought it was a typo or somebody had dropped a couple sentences from another press release into the one for this album. Even after assuring myself that it was indeed referring to the disc I had in front of me, I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of Latin klezmer music. However, listening is believing, and once you've heard "Descarga Gitano" and "Cuando El Rey Nimrod", like me you'll no longer have any doubts as to what's possible.