Jeffrey Roden: Bridge to the Other Place
Big Tree Music

One musician, one bass; zero grandstanding, zero showboating. Jeffrey Roden's Bridge to the Other Place is all about musicianship in service of the song—twenty-five of'em, to be precise. The electric bassist designed the collection so that the separate pieces would flow together as one single, connected piece, and the song titles bear this out by suggesting a narrative: after the sun rises, the traveler advances with deliberate steps, stops to reflect, and advances again, all the while setting his sights on reaching some seeming state of transcendance (the journey's vaguely reminiscent of the one undertaken by Zarathustra, for those familiar with Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra).

Roden's approach to the material was inspired in part by his attendance at the New Albion Festival at Bard College in August 2008 where a disciplined and austere performance by Ellen Fullman and Stuart Dempster inspired him to strip his own work down to its primal essence. That he's done so is clearly evident throughout the recording, with tracks such as the ponderous opener “Vigil,” “A Single Wish,” and “Respite” reduced to a single bass voice; “Points of Compass” pushes the idea to the extreme by limiting the track's entire content to repeated voicings of three- and four-note patterns. Here and elsewhere, the material is as much about the notes played as the ample spaces between them, and Roden often exploits the concept further by allowing bass notes to fade out during the rests. Most of the tracks are in the one- to two-minute range, and state their case directly and eloquently. Roden refrains from soloing in the traditional sense, and instead opts to hew closely to each piece's thematic material. I suspect he would be the first to acknowledge that a fifty-four-minute recording of solo electric bass music won't appeal to all listeners; however, those with open ears and an appreciation for solo musicianship shouldn't be disappointed.

June 2010