Jazz bass is an often overlooked aspect of the idiom as it always finds difficulty in taking a melodic role. In big band the task is nearly impossible and even in combo settings, bass solos always seem to be a bit forced as the rest of the band must bring their playing down to minuscule levels for the soloist to be heard. On his newest solo album, Aaron Lumley tackles this issue head on, spending a lonesome hour with his upright, utilizing every technique in his tool shed to create musical excitement on what may be the most challenging instruments to do so.
One of the main aspects of this album is the use of a bow. Lumley seems to be continuously pumping his arm back and forth, ripping every possible sound out of his instrument through every up and down of each piece. The emphasis on strumming may explain the title of the work. Both coming from Greek language, Katabasis and Anabasis are opposites with Katabasis being a retreat and Anabasis being an arrival. The idea of retreat and arrival trading off puts the visual of a bassist’s in and out bowing motion into words quite well. Also, the idea of retreat and arrival runs deeper than each in and out strumming motion of the bow as the ideas seem to develop in this manner as well. Lumley is constantly building up into a climax or slowly fading away from one throughout each piece. On “Psychopomp,” the pressing, high-pitched vibrations set the tone for the soundscape with low abstract melodies slowly developing into more extensive ideas.
Lumley maintains dynamic sound development by systematically from his wide pool of extended techniques. Some of the tunes focus on continuous sound achieving a busy texture, whereas other tunes are left open for a more ambient effect. Admittedly, the piece does loose interest here and there. Lumley is obviously very talented, however, a solo acoustic work of this type, especially considering the overall length of the album, is always going to have some repetition. There is little aesthetic change from “Mountain Goat’s Dance” to “A Pyriscent Green Man” and a non jazz listener may find the whole piece somewhat stagnant in overall sound. Nonetheless, the album has certainly peaked my interest.
Overall, my first impression was quite good and I definitely anticipate playing some of the work on my next radio show. I do understand that the piece may lack re-play value for those not use to minimalist acoustic music and even for those who are in-tune with those genres as well. As I spend more time with the record, I may find myself either loving every minute of it or losing interest in some of the more repetitive pieces.