Barry Guy

Tuesday, 01 July 2014

The British double bassist selects his favourite recordings

The Bill Evans Trio seemed to pull pictures out of the air like magicians

Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
I recall my composition professor, Buxton Orr at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, introducing me to this work. It was a revelation, particularly Monteverdi's use of architectural space, which I found mesmerising – the thought that it was conceived with such a contemporary imagination of how sound can travel through space stayed with me, and may have been in the back of my mind when I was working on my own compositions. The 1990 version by John Eliot Gardiner pulls everything together for me.

J. Christoph Bach ‘Meine Freundin, du bist schön’
English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
I first encountered this stunning piece in 2009. I was fairly unfamiliar with the composer’s work but I found that his harmonies and expression somehow got into my system – I walked around for days with the Chaconne in my head. The sonorities of that movement in particular triggered the first thoughts for my 2013 composition Time Passing...

Xenakis Metastaseis, Pithoprakta, Eonta
ORTF Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean-Louis Le Roux
These early works from Iannis Xenakis have an almost brutal energy that correponded with similar encounters in the early developments of improvised music. This was important for me, as it helped me get a sense that contemporary composition could appeal to the heart as well as the intellect. Although Xenakis hated any form of improvisation, I could find connections between the various instrumental techniques of classically trained musicians and improvisers.These recordings stood me in good stead for a later encounter with Xenakis, when we worked together on his solo bass piece Theraps.

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
Charles Mingus (double bass/piano), instrumentalists
This is passionate music that broke free from so many conventions of the time – repetitive chord sequences, 8-, 12- and 16-bar phrases, things that were the foundation of American jazz. In doing so, Mingus came out with a true, powerful expression of his position in the world as a black man in New York at that time. Crucially, his structures allowed the improvisers to shape the music – each of the eleven players was equally important, and all had their moment to express themselves as the music developed.

Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Bill Evans Trio
Listening to bassist Scott La Faro, playing with pianist Bill Evans and percussionist Paul Motion, was another revelation: he could play so cleanly and evenly, and with such expression, all over the instrument. The trio was able to play as if time was suspended – they seemed to pull pictures out of the air like magicians. Scottie showed me there was another way of playing the bass, certainly in pizzicato territory.

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