Barry Guy


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Fizzles is an often pyrotechnic, sometimes quite moving solo bass performance by Barry Guy, a musician perhaps better known for his spectacular albums as leader of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Improvising bass virtuoso was one of several guises that he appeared in, utilizing his phenomenal extended techniques in pieces that could range from quietly pastoral to snarlingly aggressive. As in his orchestral writing, Guy leavens the abstraction with occasional doses of traditional playing. On "Hilibili Meets the Brush," for example, he's very reminiscent of the more countrified air of early solo ventures by Dave Holland or Abdul Wadud, while "Invention/The Bird of Infinity" finds him reworking a theme from his large-scale works, a gorgeous, triumphantly romantic melody of great beauty. But more often, Guy is subjecting his instrument to all manner of unspeakable torment, gratingly whipsawing his bow or plucking strings with a ferocity that leaves the listener worried about the capacity of his finger and wrist muscles. If he sometimes crosses the line into "showing off" (arguably the case here and there), one tends to cut him much slack for the sheer jaw-dropping dexterity and, even more striking, pure touch he displays. After the final, almost ridiculously explosive track, the exhausted listener can only nod his thanks.

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