A bassist in mainstream jazz groups, Thomas Helton fell in love with free improvisation after being exposed to the great Peter Kowald, and there and then began to develop his own vocabulary. This no-nonsense album, simply titled Doublebass, is his first solo release in the field of creative music. It features three untitled tracks ranging from 12 to 34 minutes in duration, all recorded live during a residency at the Cafe Artiste in Houston, TX. The microphone has picked up much more than the sounds emanating from the instrument. Throughout the recordings listeners can hear conversation and the espresso machine. Tolerable, even mood-setting during the first piece, the level of ambient noise becomes aggravating in the second one as people obviously pay little attention to the bassist. The first and last pieces feature Helton playing mostly arco. His simultaneous use of a slappy pizzicato and drone-like bowing evoke Kowald, while his display of stamina seems inherited from William Parker. Loud and trance-inducing in track one, the music turns almost violent in track three -- the man can slap a mean string. Track two is a different affair altogether. The bassist starts on a simple finger ostinato and slowly introduces light variations, occasionally droning with the bow while keeping the riff going at the same time. The rubato 3/4 beat and the slow evolving pace of the piece are strongly reminiscent of Lloyd Swanton's work in the trio the Necks. Doublebass is a first landmark of a work in progress. Helton is on the right track, but he needs to find a more personal voice -- and a quieter venue to record.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture