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Fred Schneider - 2009 - "Seul a Seuls"

(52.53, Musea/Great Winds Records)


*****
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Kawana 3.20
2.  All Is 3.32
3.  Anhoe 3.47
4.  Ishkar 5.25
5.  Liberty City 6.42
6.  Petite Fugue En Sol 3.33
7.  Summertime 5.47
8.  Plie En Cinq 3.56
9.  Polera 3.46
10. Tabasco 3.00
11. My Favorite Things 3.45
12. Beautiful Story 3. 42
13. Solid Heart 4.38

SOLO PILOT:

Fred Schneider – electric & acoustic bass
With:
Guy Schneider – double bass (3)
Armin Metz – fretless bass (4)
Decebal Badila – bass (1)
Gilles Coquard – bass (5)
Chico Wilcox – bass (9)
Igor Wilcox – drums (9) 
Corinne Dranguet – vocals (7)
Veronique Ebel – vocals (11)

Prolusion. Fred (Frederic) SCHNEIDER is a French bassist whose interest for music – especially jazz – developed in his teenage years. He released his first solo album, titled “Fred et Co”, in 1996 on the Musea Parallele label. Then, after a nine-year hiatus, came “Kess Kiss Bass” (2005), and finally “Seul a Seuls”, released in the early days of 2009. He also played on Eclat’s 2008 live album “Live au Roucas”. “Seul a Seuls” comprises both original compositions and versions of well-known pieces, and (with the exception of two tracks with vocals, and one with drums) only features acoustic and electric basses.

Analysis. As solo projects go, “Seul a Seuls” is a much more interesting specimen than the majority of such efforts. First of all, it is based on the bass, in both its electric and acoustic incarnations – an instrument which is usually seen as more of an accompaniment than a protagonist. Recording a whole album with barely the presence of other instruments might sound like your bored musician’s typical vanity project, something that only other fellow musicians might be able to appreciate. However, I am happy to report that “Seul a Seuls” is nothing of the sort. Though indeed a celebration of the mighty ‘bottom end’, it is also full of melody, and an enjoyable prospect for most listeners - unless they are looking for wild headbanging or catchy, radio-friendly choruses. In spite of its inherently virtuosic nature, “Seul a Seuls” is very approachable, even more so on account of its being at least by half made of cover versions. Even though Schneider’s original compositions are intended for showing the expressive potential of the bass as a leading instrument, they always keep melody and listenability at the forefront – which is quite unusual for albums conceived in this manner, where technique inevitably ends up overwhelming the rest. The covers are tackled respectfully, yet in a very personal way, reinterpreting the originals without dramatically altering their fabric. Two of those covers (both interpreted by female vocalists) are of songs so well-known by the general public as to be considered almost as icons of modern popular music: George Gershwin’s Summertime and Rodgers/Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things (misspelt on the CD as Thing). While the former possesses a charming Latin tinge, the latter sounds somewhat more subdued than the boisterous original, while keeping its romantic nature, complemented by Veronique Ebert’s clear, beautiful voice. On the other hand, the cover of Jaco Pastorius’ Liberty City – played as a duet with fellow bassist Gilles Coquard – remains remarkably true to the original, retaining all its complexity under a deceptively simple veneer. Polera, the only track featuring drums, is another fluid, very engaging piece in a typical jazz-fusion vein, which sees the contribution of Brazilian virtuoso brothers Igor and Chico Wilcox. In my view, though, Plie en Cinq, a composition entirely written and performed by Schneider himself with two basses, one tapping and the other playing the melodic line, is one of the standout tracks on the album – with its attractively repetitive, chiming tune oddly reminiscent of the main theme in King Crimson’s Discipline. While I would never claim that “Seul a Seuls” is an album that will appeal to everyone, fans of jazz-fusion are quite likely to be taken with it. On the other hand, for an album of this kind, it is probably a tad overlong, and would have been perfect at around 45 minutes – cutting out a couple of the less impressive tracks. On the whole, though, it is definitely worth a listen, especially when needing a respite from more demanding music.

Conclusion. “Seul A Seuls” is not just a technically outstanding album, but a very pleasing, uplifting listen as well, even for non-musicians. However, due to the lack (for the most part at least) of other instruments, it can also come across as somewhat one-dimensional. It is, in any case, a must for fans of both the electric and the acoustic bass – one of those rare albums where technical prowess and feeling are not mutually exclusive.

RB=Raffaella Berry: April 16, 2010
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Fred Schneider


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