After a decade or so of being "bassboy for hire," seemingly content playing other people's music, Bryan Beller decided the time was right for making some music of his own. View is his first travel down that road. It's an album of solid rock instrumentals (a couple tunes have vocals), broken up by several solo bass pieces. Beller's got chops to spare, but also shows taste and restraint in his playing, along with some fine compositions.
View starts with the very pretty "Bear Divide," scored for an electric and an acoustic bass, then moves into a killer groove with "Seven Percent Grade," featuring Mike Keneally on piano and Rick Musallam on guitar (Beller's bandmates in the Mike Keneally Band). Then it's time for Keneally's turn on guitar with "Supermarket People," with Jeff Babko on Hammond organ, followed by the slightly ominous "Elate," for solo bass. Beller was wise to limit Keneally's involvement (lest anyone doubt this is Bryan's baby), and just as wise to feature Rick Musallam and Griff Peters on guitars, because they sound great on these tunes.
As a composer, Beller shows a pretty broad range, and an affinity for some genuinely sick tones (check Musallam on "Seven Percent Grade," or Keneally on "See You Next Tuesday"). Although all the songs are clearly composed, some are more of a groove, allowing the guitarists plenty of room to strut. "Projectile" is a fairly brief rocker with a great distorted vocal that builds to a frenetic conclusion. Each of the solo bass pieces evokes a different mood, with Beller showing what a great musician he is (there's a lot more to it than just technique). His treatment of John Pattitucci's "Backwoods" is especially nice. Perhaps the most surprising pieces are "Eighteen Weeks," with its wonderful use of a string trio and vibes, and the beautiful title cut, "View," both of which really demonstrate the depth of Beller's composing ability. The only mis-step on the album is "Bite," a pretty generic rocker, and the only other tune Beller didn't write himself. Given Beller's abilities and background, this could have all too easily become a bass showcase, or a guitar shredder album. There is some monster playing on the album to be sure, and fans of those camps will not be disappointed with View, but thanks to his musical sense and savvy, the album goes way beyond that. Those familiar with him already knew Bryan Beller was a great bass player; View shows him to be a fine composer, and an excellent producer as well. This is a strong first effort.