More than eleven years ago, French bassist Joëlle Léandre and American bassist William Parker released their first duo album, of two double basses in a duo format. An unusual combination, that Léandre tested out again later with bassist Barre Phillips. But the latter one was probably the first to have recorded a double double bass album, together with Dave Holland: "Music From Two Basses", in 1971.
Here are some more examples:
Joëlle Léandre & William Parker - Contrebasses
Joëlle Léandre & Barre Philips - A L'Improviste
Joëlle Léandre & William Parker - Live At Dunois
Joëlle Léandre & Tetsu Saitoh - Joëlle et Tetsu
Peter Kowald & Damon Smith - Mirrors - Broken, But No Dust
Peter Kowald & William Parker - The Victoriaville Tape
Peter Kowald - Bass Duets (with Barre Phillips, Barry Guy, Maarten Altena)
Bertram Turetzky & Damon Smith - Thoughtbeetle
Barre Phillips & Peter Kowald - Die Jungen: Random Generators
Barry Guy & Barre Phillips - Arcus
Glen Moore & David Friesen - Returning
Alain Caron & Michel Donato - Base Contre Basse
Barre Phillips & Motoharu Yoshizawa - Uzu
Werner Dafelfdecker & Uli Fussenegger - Bogengange
Mark Dresser & Mark Helias - The Marks Brothers
Peter Kowald, William Parker & Peter Jacquemyn - Deep Music (two duets)
Michel donato & Guillaume Bouchard- 2 Contrebasses
Malachi Favors Maghostut & Tatsu Aoki - 2x4
Peter Ind & Rufus Reid - Alone Together
And there's the even more unusual bass quartet:
Barre Phillips/Joëlle Léandre/William Parker/Tetsu Saitoh - After You Gone (in memory of Peter Kowald)
Also worth mentioning is of course William Parker's "Requiem" for four basses, in memory of Peter Kowald and Wilber Morris, with Henry Grimes, Sirone and Alan Silva, and with Charles Gayle on sax.
And in 1971, on "For all it is" (JAPO 60003) Barry Guy, Barre Phillips, J.F.Jenny-Clark, Palle Danielson, play four basses, with Stu Martin on percussion.
Joëlle Léandre & William Parker - Live at Dunois (Leo, 2009) ****½
Just for the comparison, I put on their first collaboration too, and in fact the joy they created so many years ago, continues on this one. Free improvisation between two "support" instruments is not an easy task, but in the hands of these two masters, it turns into a play. A play of rhythm, percussive pluckings, subtle pizzi excursions, or mutual support of arco and pizzi. The music is gentle here, less dramatic than on their first release, sensitive and nuanced, rich, more mature, a little less daring and adventurous, and yes, even Léandre's singing is a little more restrained. Léandre's bow can screech and rip right through your chestbone, but it can also envelop you in a warm feeling, playing even melodic pieces, as on the second track, while Parker is surely the more rhythmic, more jazz-oriented, with his habitual very soulful approach. Without a doubt the highlight of the album is the long central track, with lots of arco playing by both of them, more adventurous than the rest of the album, more dramatic too, hypnotic because of its rhythmic propulsion in the lower tones, and which stops a little too abruptly to my taste (and it might have continued for a while!). On the fifth track inventiveness diminishes a little, but the last piece gets an almost shamanistic native American tribal feel, with Joëlle Léandre accompanying her repetitive bowed playing with almost ritual singing, with Parker adding slow warm deep rhythmic tones. Staggeringly beautiful.
If you know of other bass-bass duets, please let me know, and I'll complete the list above, for everyone's education.