Joe Williamson

The Ungrateful Carjacker

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Solo double-bass albums have become more common. Every significant free improv bassist has at least one of those in his discography, from Barry Guy to Peter Kowald, Joëlle Léandre to Barre Phillips. Generally, bassists choose between two approaches. Either they present pieces that integrate the techniques they have developed into a whole (much like what they play in duo or trio settings), or they opt for a "each track it's technique" formula. Integration goes hand in hand with experience and maturity, so it comes as no surprise that younger players produce solo albums based on technique, and The Ungrateful Carjacker is among them. Joe Williamson presents seven pieces, each one stretching out from a chosen technique. In the third piece, light pressure on the bow produces a droning lament. In the seventh, he uses jerky movements of the fingers and bow on wood and strings, resulting in a symphony of squeaks, scratches, and other protozoan sounds. Track five is given to a linear course from the key-end of the fretboard all the way to the bridge. Williamson masters the extended vocabulary of the instrument, and has the versatility and ear to stand his ground for decades on the Free Improv scene. But on this album his music is dry -- virtuosic yes, but uninvolved. Questions of melody and rhythm aside (since he deliberately steers clear of them), it still lacks an inner dimension that would make it endearing. In short: The Ungrateful Carjacker represents Williamson's skills, but not his true talent. We'll hold our evaluation of his merits as a soloist until his next effort.