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Frank Proto
This Bass, She's Not Electric!

Compact Disc: Red Mark CD 9208

These four chamber works, written between 1975 and 1988, embrace some of the contemporary developments made in combining electronic music recorded on tape with solo 'live' performance. The electronic sounds in Nebula (1975), for piano, bass and tape, derive from and ARP-2600, an echoplex and a phase inverter. The work comprises two main parts, the first, serial based, featuring a piano cadenza on which all subsequent material is founded. Proto's augmentation of the ARP-2600 let to his Reflections (1979) for viola, bass and tape, comprising five continuous movements arranged in a symmetrical design. Particularly remarkable are its two 'Dialogues' for each instrument and tape and its central 'Dance and Improvisation' for both instruments with tape.

Proto's The Death of Desdemona (1987), derived from his experiments with the Synclavier Computer Music System, is a fantasia for bass and tape inspired by the fifth act of Shakespeare's Othello and the fourth act of Verdi's Otello. The pleasing variety of timbres resulting from digital sampling and subsequent computer modification of sounds is effectively employed in pursuit of the work's dramatic goal. Similar sampling and FM synthesis is used in The Story of Herman (1988), and entertaining 'football fable' for two double basses, percussion, narrator and tape, based on a poem by sports columnist Tim Sullivan. Its complex problems of coordination are overcome with apparent ease by Proto's versatile Ensemble Sans Frontière, whose various members serve his music faithfully and imaginatively throughout, prompted by both his compositional flair and his dextrous bass playing.

Robin Stowell
Double Bassist
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Frank Proto
The Death of Desdemona


for Solo Double Bass and Tape

The Death of Desdemona is a fascinating work, combining live music with tape (supplied on compact disc) and based on the double bass solo from the fourth act of Verdi's Othello. It was commissioned by and dedicated to Barry Green.

This new edition is well produced with clear printing throughout and a page of text explaining the technical requirements. As the composer stresses: "A successful performance depends on more than just a virtuoso performance by the solo bassist."

This is a virtuoso work, but well written and playable, in a free rhapsodic style and utilizing much of the instrument. A recent recording by the composer (This Bass, She's Not Electric! Red Mark CD 9208) proves the musical quality of the work, although I am sure that the added problems of the tape, synchronization and amplification will deter all but the most dedicated player.

I do hope, however, that The Death of Desdemona enters the repertoire, as the intriguing combination of live music and prepared tape ably demonstrates the unique sound world of the solo double bass, but in an accessible and audience-friendly way.

David Heyes
The British and International Double Bass Forum

Compact Disc Available
Progam notes
Click to view a sample of the Solo Bass Part

Frank Proto
The Death of Desdemona


for Solo Double Bass and Tape

Works for live instument and pre-recorded electronic accompaniment form a special genre. Among the many that have been written for the double bass, the 1987 Death of Desdemona by Frank Proto is a classic. Based on the Othello works by William Shakespeare and Giuseppe Verdi, this fantasia makes liberal use of Verdi's famous bass soli opening of the fourth act. The double bass provides the sound source for the electronic accompaniment and Verdi provides the melodic and emotional framework. All of the electronic sounds are double bass samples that were modified on the Synclavier Digital Music System.

The interaction between electronic and live double bass sounds is well done and Mr. Proto has fashioned a dramatic work of delicate beauty. The unique performance and production challenges inherent in such a work are thoroughly addressed in the accompanying Performance Notes. A CD of the electronic accompaniment for both Orchestra and Solo tuning must be purchased separately. The Death of Desdemona is recorded on Red Mark CD-9208.

Robert Black
Bass World

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Landscapes - Bass Meets Voice


Jackie Allen and Hans Sturm

Compact Disc: Red Mark CD 9217

Vocalist Jackie Allen and bassist Hans Sturm have codified a working relationship of nearly twenty years with their first duo CD. Perhaps this rarified idiom demands such a long-term commitment to produce results like these. The duo involves nearly every creative adaptation of texture and musical effect possible by voice and bass. To their great credit, the musical effects are evocative, stirring, lyrical, playful, and, at times, mysterious, but never gratuitous. The success of this recording stems as much from the technical and stylistic flexibility of the two musicians as it does from their obvious mutual empathy.

The material is original, even though a third of the pieces are jazz standards. The treatment in those instances makes the music new. The remainder of the material consists of three works by Sturm and one by Allen. Sturm provides through-composed works that have story-telling qualities. Blackwater has interludes of monologue, which are literally reminiscent of Mingus. The centerpiece of the project is an original suite of Sturm's, Landscapes - Desert, Mountain, Grassy Plains, Oceans, Rainforest. A musical geography lesson, Landscapes features Sturm's poetry that is sung, spoken, chanted, and presented in vocal percussion, and, in Rainforest, animal calls. Here, and throughout the project, Sturm presents the bass as rhythm section, melody maker, percussion, antiphonal voice, and obbligato.

The treatment of the standards is exceptional. I Want to be Happy has Latin and hip-hop qualities before breaking out into an all out swing that has so much exuberance you can almost imagine a big band behind them. Green Dolphin Street has a world music flavor, with the bass evoking the sound of a kalimba. When the melody is quoted for the first time, nearly five minutes into the arrangement, the effect is very moving. The other thoughtfully arranged standards are Dindi, Only Trust Your Heart, You Stepped out of a Dream, and 'Round Midnight. Allen and Sturm have developed a unique ensemble with an equally unique repertoire. As those who heard them at the 1999 ISB convention would no doubt agree, they provide as stunning a live performance as you find on this recording.

Tom Knific
Bass World

Landscapes - Bass Meets Voice


Jackie Allen and Hans Sturm

Compact Disc: Red Mark CD 9217

This talented duo's experiments in combining improvisational material and well-known songs yield strikingly original results. Both Allen and Sturm contribute imaginative 'spontaneous arrangement' in You stepped out of a dream and Admit it, while Allen's atmospheric vocal beginning above bass ostinato in Green Dolphin Street, her beautiful vocal ghosting of the bass ostinato in Dindi, and Sturm's brilliant and effective bass playing in Love comes and goes and Round Midnight make for exhilarating listening. But my highlight is I want to be happy, which Allen swings splendidly to Sturm's percussive backing or vigorous bass line. Three of Sturm's compositions are incorporated in this compilation, most notably Landscapes, a suite of five movements that 'serve as tone parallels to different geographic designations'. The opening movement, Desert, is apt but unattractive, but Mountain - with Sturm's bass commenting on Allen's expressive narrative - is most effective, as are the hypnotic jazz vocal techniques exploited in the finale, Rainforest. Sturm's Dream Milonga is less impressive than his Blackwater, a miniature drama with music. Sturm and Allen each relates a different story above bass or vocal interpolations from the other, forming a 'kind of film noire narrative' impressive for its complexity and striking effect.

Robin Stowell
Double Bassist

Landscapes - Bass Meets Voice


Jackie Allen and Hans Sturm

Compact Disc: Red Mark CD 9217

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Voice/bass combinations are not unusual in jazz. Sheila Jordan has made classic recordings with bass players Harvie Swartz and Arild Anderson. Nancy King and Glenn Moore have maintained this tradition and Jay Leonhardt has performed with a large roster of singers. But the similarity between those endeavors and this album ends there. Chicago-based vocalist Jackie Allen and classically trained bass player and composer, Hans Sturm have put together a 72 minute daring, serious, sensuous and often intense musical experience. The flexibility of both these musicians is striking, especially Allen. Her voice takes on more shapes and forms than one has the right to expect from human vocal chords. It can be husky, sexy, gracefully pure and most of all, passionate. She also can sing straight as on I Want to be Happy. But most of the time she is twisting and turning her voice as she creates a variety of emotions and images, particularly with pieces written by Sturm. Blackwater, inspired by the late beat poet Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Allen hums while Sturm has a telephone conversation with someone obviously distraught and depressed as only Sturm's side of the conversation is heard. Here, his bass takes on an eerie, spongy sound. On "Green Dolphin Street" her voice becomes an instrument as she duos with Sturm's bass before moving into a straightforward rendition of the lyrics. This, as much as any track, demonstrates her perfect pitch. There is never a wavering in intonation. But it is on Landscapes where Allen's vocal dexterity is brought to bear the most. On this five-movement modern oratorio, we are treated to a declamation of several of today's tragedies within the framework of sounds linked to geographic locations.

Sturm shows throughout this session that he is a master of the double bass. He makes it sound like a guitar, a violin, a horn as he strums, plucks, slides and bows. He does more than accompany Allen, he is her equal partner.

This album ups the ante for voice/bass combination. It demands serious and committed listening. Landscapes-Bass Meets Voice will leave most breathless. It is unique and entertaining and recommended.

Dave Nathan
All Music Guide (on line)