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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Devin Hoff - Solo Bass (Self Published, 2008) ***½

Devin Hoff is one of those modern bass-players with a very broad pallette. You can't call him mainstream, you can't call him avant-garde either, yet he's equally comfortable in both and everything in between. He has played with amongst others Nels Cline, Plays Monk, Steven Bernstein, Good For Cows and Ben Goldberg, all musicians open to any style and adventure. Furthermore he gives musical references as wide apart as "Munir Bashir, Joao Gilberto, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Joelle Leandre, as well as the profound inspirations of Ornette Coleman, The Carter Family and Black Sabbath". All that by itself gives a good indication of his approach to solo bass : it's accessible, creative, and sophisticated. The titles are all a little bit anarchic, but that's certainly not what you would expect from hearing the pieces. True, sometimes his bowing leads to some hair-raising sounds, but it is always complemented by his soft plucking. Playing solo bass is extremely difficult, not by itself but to keep the listener's attention throughout the whole album. And Devin Hoff tries to vary sufficiently in style, tempo and pizzi vs arco, to maintain interest. I have Paul Roger's "Being" still fresh in the back of my head as the reference for solo bass, and that's a tough comparison. Rogers indeed manages to throw his entire "being" into his music, showing the emotional nakedness of true authenticity, an incredible feat well beyond most musicians. That being said, Hoff's bass playing is very good, his approach to music is nice. And I just love the sound of solo bass, the warmth and the depth of the instrument : it is clear that Hoff enjoys every atom of his instrument and every sound it can make. So do I.

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© stef