Featuring: Barry Guy
DING DANG A DIGGY DING DANG
OLD EARTH HOME
Martin Schray - Free Jazz Blog
Barry Guy decided to name his latest solo album after Comet (1998), a screenprint by Albert Irvin (1922—2015) part of which appears on the cover. The British double bassist has previously used works by his fellow countryman as the album art for releases on his Maya label and the solo, 10” EP, Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett (NoBusiness, 2014). Irvin was a British artist who created an extensive body of abstract paintings, watercolours, and prints. His mature work has its own very particular sense of dimension and depth, achieved through gestural mark-making and luminous hues set against one another in chromatic vibration. He often worked on a grand scale, but also created smaller, more intimate works which function like a microcosm of his large-format paintings. Irvin “epitomised the idea of art as the expression of the life force within the space of the image,” The Guardian wrote in its obituary. His motifs were abstracted from the urban environment about him and as a result archetypal structures came to the fore. In the early 1970s he turned to acrylic instead of oil paint, which led to denser, more vivid layering and the pulsating grids of colour and calligraphic shapes that spread across his canvases, likened by Irvin himself to music.
Barry Guy’s artistic approach has aspects in common with Irvin’s. Dynamic structures and intense sound colour are at the centre of his solo output; his use of the double bass’s physical potential includes several extended methods like rattling bows, sticks, and brushes. As expected, in this performance from 2019 there are elements which strongly characterise his music: notes that buzz around like flies on cocaine (the beginning of “Comet”); nervous trills accompanied by long overtones (“Oscillating”), that seem to add another dimension to the piece; Phrygian shifts in combination with harmonics reminiscent of flamenco music (“Closed Space”); and beautiful glissandi, which he counteracts with short, dancing notes and slapped chords (“Ding Dang A Dingy Dang”).
So far, nothing new. Convincing improvised solo sets need to have an idea of where the music is to go however, and of course Guy has one. His unique sense of form, sublime tone, and harmonic imagination take us on a gradually unfolding trip. The music seems to be in search of something as it turns in one direction, then another, and finally leads us to a goal – in this case, “Old Earth Home”, a piece that dances around a joyful rhythmic riff. Rarely before has Guy sounded so light-hearted, so easy. The piece has the appeal of traditional British folk music, as if the sun’s come out at the end of a cloudy day. After that the music flows into a kind of coda (“Barehead”) which concludes the set. 43 years after Statements V-XI for Double Bass & Violone (Incus, 1977), Barry Guy continues to push the solo double bass genre into fresh, exciting territories. Irvin’s Comet is highly recommended.