Rob Wasserman

Space Island

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The follow-up to bassist Rob Wasserman's Solo, Duets, and Trios trilogy of generally stripped-down performances is an unexpectedly sprawling, multi-layered space-jazz song cycle. Produced, engineered, co-conceived, and co-written with Dave Aron, the album takes its cues from bassist/producer Bill Laswell's similarly styled projects in the '80s for his Axiom label, which mixed jazz, funk, ambient, techno, and world music in similar ways as Wasserman does here. Despite its eclectic nature, the album hangs together surprisingly well, flowing from the spoken word/hip-hop of "Hillbilly Hip Hop" to the Brazilian-tinged "Ipanema" (with a perhaps unintentional nod to the Beatles' "Yesterday") without jarring segues. Credit producer Aron for crafting the somewhat spacy sound that meshes the disparate genres of music, making even the closing eight-minute "Sultan Song," a Ravi Shankar-influenced traditional Indian piece featuring sarangi and vocals from Ustad Sultan Khan, seem linked to the rest of the disc's songs. Wasserman's bass is clearly the focus, driving these tracks without distracting from the other performers. Even the pseudo guitar chords on the brooding, ominous "Is Anyone There?" are created by Wasserman and Tommy "D" Daugherty on bass effects pedals. There are occasional vocals and some scratching from guest DJ Jam, but this is a predominantly instrumental project. Wasserman's fingers fly on the appropriately titled "Feel the Bass," propelling the song into the cosmos with bass overdubs, Jam's turntable work, and percussion from Carl "Butch" Small as his fuel. The album's sequencing is also beautifully executed. The cuts don't have much quiet time between them, creating the impression of a longer piece that shifts into different suites. It's a unique and beautifully crafted album that reveals additional layers with every spin and isn't afraid to take chances while remaining in a commercial, jazz fusion groove.

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