S.M.V. – Thunder – Heads Up

by | Nov 29, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

S.M.V. – Thunder – Heads Up HUCD3163, 62:15 ****:

(Stanley Clarke – electric bass, acoustic bass; Marcus Miller – electric bass, synths, tenor and alto sax, bass clarinet; Victor Wooten – electric bass; Ronald Bruner – drums; with guests Chick Corea – piano; George Duke – clavinet, mini-Moog; Patches Stewart – trumpet; and others)

That the three bassists can keep out of each other’s way is itself a small miracle; that they make always interesting if not always completely enjoyable music is quite an accomplishment.  It helps that each plays in quite a different style than the others, that none seems to have an over-inflated ego, and that they’re all masters at what they do.  This is one of those discs that deserves to be heard by virtue of the unique soundscape it conjures and the outrageous virtuosity on display, if for no other reasons.

But there are other reasons aplenty.  How about some quite attractive—and sometimes even poignant—tunes: “Maestros do las Frecuencias Bajas,” “Los Tres Hermanos,” “Mongoose Walk,” “Milano,” “Tutu,” and “Lil’ Victa”?  Or quite a bit of off-the-wall humor liberally spread throughout the session (“Hillbillies on a Quiet Afternoon,” “Lopsy Lu-Silly Putty,” “Classical Thump”)?  Plus, these guys don’t seem to be taking it all that seriously.  Yes, they can play circles around just about anybody, but their virtuosity is really rather lightly worn, and they seem at least as interested in smart conversation as in showing off their monster chops.

When I first heard this disc I wrote it off as a gimmick.  A closer listen or two uncovered not only continually interesting passages, but a kind of restless, maverick, and very seductive energy all over it, as well as a huge swath of musical moods.  Certainly worth checking out by any and all who care about the future of the electric bass guitar, not to mention encountering some killer playing.

TrackList: Maestros do las Frecuencias Bajas, Thunder, Hillbillies on a Quiet Afternoon, Mongoose Walk, Los Tres Hermanos, Lopsy Lu-Silly Putty, Milano, Classical Thump, Tutu, Lil’ Victa, Pendulum, Lemme Try Your Bass, Grits

– Jan P. Dennis

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