Esperanza Spalding in an interview once described the bass as the most sensual instrument. To play it, one must sit it against the pelvis. Its vibrations are meant to evoke depth in the ear, but the sensation of playing it is also sensual in nature. The bass is sexy, and essential (and if one were to believe the role of sex in the role of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the role of the bass as a musical component and of sex as need seem almost parallel metaphorically). To pull this metaphor to my point, as a bassist, Brandon Lopez, to put things indelicately, fucks. He’s not playing the instrument to walk basslines, he’s not giving thought to neatness. Lopez is an experimental player, well versed in his instrument and with an ear for the dynamic. He’s beastly plucking strings, pliant with a bow, and knows a thing or two or three or eight about the whole body. Musically, he’s going to get all up in them guts, and he does so on his new album on the Astral Spirits label, quoniam facta sum vilis.
Like any solo album, the music is defined by its sense of space– what is being played and what isn’t, how long can a rest last, what all can be done on this instrument and when? All throughout these eight compositions, Lopez is testing the limits of his bass, giving the same ferocity he gives in live performance and infusing that same energy here. With that said, Lopez is making sounds with the bass that’s hard to figure out. What are the squeaks in “Gruppo”? From what depths are the groans arising in “Pa”? How loud can a whisper be? (That one depends on the quiet surrounding it, and Lopez knows how to make a sturdy silence as much as a clamoring roar.) For an album with just one instrument, Brandon Lopez has found out how to do the most with it, even when he’s doing so little. This is definitely a less is more album.
It goes without saying that this is experimental, that this is free jazz, that this collection of songs is just plain weird. It is not for everyone, but even for those in which it might now, somehow this music has this visceral feeling to it, that it can find some sort of appeal in the hollow corners o the minds of the uninitiated. It’s an odd album, who could deny that, but Brandon Lopez’s quoniam facta sum vilis is just the perfect kind of weird, a sexy, challenging, exploratory kind of weird, the kind of weird that this music, in all its forms, engenders. This is a damn good example of the weird that lives in experimentation, able to discover new sounds and new insights in the air and in our souls.
quoniam facta sum vilis, the new solo album from bassist Brandon Lopez, is out now on Astral Spirits.
All compositions by BRANDON LOPEZ.
Recording by DAVID ZUCHOWSKI & BOB BELLERUE.
Mixed diligently by FATHER JON LIPSCOMB.
Mastered by ALAN JONES at LAMINAL AUDIO.
Special thanks to Dave Rempis, Elastic Arts, Issue Project Room and SMR Double Basses.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.