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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 19 September 2020 16:26

Mark Wade - Songs From Isolation

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Bass player delivers a solo album, plus accompanying videos, from a quiet NYC.

New York based bass player Mark Wade has long been a Kind of Jazz favourite. We were the first international site to review his debut album, Event Horizon (2015). More recently, we got the chance to interview Mark on his most recent UK tour.

Tours are off the agenda for now, so Mark has used this opportunity to make a novel new album. Rather than recording ‘remotely’ with his long-standing trio, he has made a solo bass album, using the instrument in a variety of different ways - lead acoustic, accompaniment, percussion, electric bass - where he started - and bowed acoustic, adding a ‘cello’ like effect. Moreover, each of the five pieces comes with an innovative video. For those who prefer things the old-fashioned way, a CD is also available.

The album starts with Hours Til Dawn. This tune “makes me think of the sensation of flying or floating though air,” Mark explains, and there’s an airiness to the tune created by the sense of space. Mark uses the body of the acoustic bass to provide percussion, with acoustic bass taking the lead. He plays the electric bass in the upper register, to produce a guitar-like effect, with bowed bass coming in from time to time to emphasise the melody. That same sense of space is captured in the video, which emphasises the clean New York skyline during lockdown.

Watch the video to Hours Til Dawn here:

Intents And Purposes stitches together four distinct pieces. The opening section is ECM-like, with bowed bass accompanying the electric bass harmonics to create an atmospheric mood. By the end, the piece has gradually transitioned into a gospel-influenced sound, with the tapped rhythm resembling handclaps. The video is vaguely unsettling, stark images of Mark playing alone in a dark room, juxtaposed with footage of building interiors and architecture.

A Conspiracy Of Lemurs , as the name suggests, is more light-hearted. The electric bass takes the lead here, the acoustic bass proving both support and the beat. There’s a neat, guitar-like solo on the electric bass too, showing the versatility of Mark’s playing. The video is also fun, showing Mark wandering around an eerily quiet NYC. The video to Blues In Isolation also captures that emptiness, the prominent birdsong at the beginning a giveaway. This tune is played exclusively on acoustic bass, and has a more traditional blues feel to it.

The albums ends with a brief tribute to Bob Dorough, Nothing Like You. The arrangement is based on the Gil Evans arrangement from Miles Davis’s Sorceror (1967). The ‘horn’ parts are played by Wade, on bowed bass, while vocal duties are handled by Mark’s wife, Terry Leggio Wade, who captures Dorough’s unique style. The video was shot on the couple’s wedding anniversary, and must have created quite a mess, given the numerous costume changes!

Songs From Isolation is a fun, innovative response to the situation we all face. Mark has always been a fine composer, as his albums testify, but the added visual element works well, particularly at a time where the opportunities for live performance are so limited.


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