Swiss-born Nina de Heney studied with Miroslav Vitous at the New England Conservatoire, then settled in Sweden, where she’s now lived for nearly 25 years. Archipelago appears to be her first solo recording, so it’s a shame that the playing time is only 45 minutes; it’s a limited edition of only 300 copies; and the CD includes no information about de Heney or her music, save the cryptic message that her track titles spell out: ‘No woman is an island, neither am I.’
Archipelago comprises 11 brief improvisations, in which de Heney employs a variety of techniques – sometimes with the help of percussion instruments and, presumably, overdubbing – to coax a range of sounds from her upright bass. Her playing has strength, energy and obvious technical ability; yet compared to classics of the genre, such as Joëlle Léandre’s Urban Bass or Barry Guy’s Symmetries, her music is limited in its expressive scope. Each track pays particular attention to one or two sonorities or textural or rhythmic ideas, but de Heney rarely develops them in imaginative or surprising ways, and the close focus means many tracks sound more like technical studies than pieces of music: certainly there is little of the originality and musical daring that make Guy and Léandre such exciting improvisers. That said, I did enjoy the edgy harmonics of the seventh track and the thickly layered percussive textures on track eight, but the points of interest are too few and too scattered to give this Archipelago a distinctive identity of its own.