JJ 11/73: Barre Phillips – For All It Is

Fifty years ago Barry McRae enjoyed four basses - Phillips, Palle Danielsson, Barry Guy and J.F. Jenny-Clarke - contrapunting with Stu Martin. First published in Jazz Journal November 1973


This album is a triumph for bass playing. The men who make up this impossibly unwieldy line-up manage to play tunes on which they improvise impressively and generally function as effectively as might horns. I do not know that I am always sure who is soloing. Jenny-Clarke is on the right channel but I do not know Danielsson at all. Nevertheless Phillips’ bright singing tone is well in evidence and I take the fiercely aggressive line to be Guy.

Not that individual identities really matter, for much of the album is contrapuntal and the various bass lines form a tapestry of rich textures. There are totally arco passages, particularly striking on La Pallette, and passages that combine this method with strong pizzicato contrasts. Martin plays very much a subsidiary role and there are even long stretches when he lays out altogether.

All the writing is by Phillips and is uniformly good, with Just Eight and Y En A the strongest. The former is especially memorable and makes an ideal opening to an album that should appeal to a far wider audience than just the musicians who have to carry these monsters around on their backs.

Just Eight; Whoop; Few Too; La Palette (20½ min) – Y En A; Dribble; Y.M. (17¾ min)
Barre Phillips (bs); Palle Danielsson (bs); Barry Guy (bs); J. F. Jenny-Clarke (bs); Stu Martin (perc). Hamburg 12/3/71.
(Japo 60003 £2.45)