Bassist and composer Greg Chudzik releases his follow up volume 2 to his 2015 "Solo Works, Vol 1" on the Panoramic imprint. Expansive, layered compositions incorporate a wide range of extended bass instrumental techniques into music that touches on Chudzik's prolific background as a performer in a wide variety of contemporary music, modern jazz, and experimental improvisation.
In the second volume of his “Solo Works” series, bassist/composer Greg Chudzik largely turns to the richness of acoustic timbres, presenting music for a quartet of layered double basses. Chudzik’s overlapping cyclical grooves and expansive harmonic sense echo his works for electric bass on Volume 1 of the set, but this newest collection is more wide ranging structurally, drifting in and out of propulsive rhythmic sections and freer explorations of sound.
The opening track, Wind Hymnal, so named after being partially written during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, consists of several sections built off repetitive cells, sometimes entering canonically, and other times acting as accompanimental figures to soloistic material. An odd meter pizzicato groove momentarily breaks up the mostly arco texture, before a wistful coda closes the work.
The What, an homage to the David Eggers novel “What is the What”, points back to Chudzik’s Volume 1 with its ostinato driven textures and interlocking rhythms, at times imitating the sounds of the West African kora.
Y’Chi is a meditation on masses of sound, undulating in and out in different registers. Embedded inside these rumbling chords are fascinating beatings resulting from overtones bouncing against each other. Midway through the piece, Chudzik leans more heavily on trilling high harmonics, capturing a compelling fragility in the sound world of the double bass.
Automated Ocean introduces electronics to the texture, using MIDI data to accompany the bass through the use of auto-tune (think Cher or T-Pain). At about the five minute mark of the work, off-kilter hocketing figures destabilize the texture before it reprises the opening in an ecstatic finish inspired by the impossibly euphoric sounds of slot machines in a Vegas casino.
Chudzik’s work as a performer/composer is informed by his wealth of experience as a bassist in many contexts. An interest in a richly extended timbral language lives alongside a penchant for minimalist use of motives, and his use of electronics achieves a premeditated “concert” music contextualization of the medium with platforms that are often used in live contexts. Throughout, his strong command as an instrumentalist is animated by the spark of spontaneity of a seasoned improviser. All these components come together in Chudzik’s “Solo Works Volume 2” to make for a collection that reflects his unique voice in the contemporary music scene.
– D. Lippel
Greg Chudzik is an active performer across numerous genres on the double bass and electric bass. Currently, he can be seen performing regularly with several new music groups, including Signal Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, and Talea Ensemble. Greg is also a member of several bands, including Empyrean Atlas, Bing and Ruth, and The Briars of North America. He has worked with numerous influential figures in contemporary music, including Steve Coleman, Steve Reich, Brian Ferneyhough, Pierre Boulez, George Benjamin, Helmut Lachenmann, Charles Wuorinen, Alex Mincek and Tristan Perich. Greg’s recording credits include playing on the Grammy-nominated “Barcelonaza” by Jorge Leiderman, “Pulse / Quartet” by Steve Reich on Nonesuch records, “Morphogenesis” and "Synovial Joints" by Steve Coleman on Pi Recordings, “No Home of the Mind” and "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age" by Bing and Ruth on RVNG records, the album “Americans” by Scott Johnson (Tzadik records), multiple recordings with Signal Ensemble on New Amsterdam and Mode Records, the album “Grown Unknown” by Lia Ices (Secretly Canadian records), the album "Inner Circle" by Empyrean Atlas, and the album “High Violet” by The National on 4AD records. Greg's debut album "Solo Works, Vol. 1" was released in July of 2015 and features original pieces of music written for bass guitar and electronics.http://www.gregchudzik.com
Readers might recognize bassist Greg Chudzik from his playing on Steve Reich’s Pulse / Quartet on Nonesuch Records, Steve Colman’s Morphogenesis from a few years back, or from The National’s High Violet. But if you were a listener to my former radio show you would have heard nearly the entirety of his Solo Works, Vol. 1 from 2015. Chudzik has followed up that superb set of pieces for solo electric bass with Solo Works, Vol. 2, a collection of four extended pieces for a quartet of layered acoustic double basses.
The bassist’s wide-ranging workload as a player is reflected in Chudzik’s impressively diverse compositional approaches on SWV2: Wind Hymnal is a sullen and folksy, almost Asian-tinged number while The What is a catchy, dare I say poppy, hit in 7; Y’Chi is a slowly-evolving spectral monolith while Automated Ocean is a midi-enhanced/effected and rhythmically dense piece of contemporary composition. In the wrong hands, this type of multiplicity could come across as overly ambitious or even jumbled, but Chudzik’s exceptional compositional voice is more than strong enough to unify this set in considerably rewarding ways. It is certainly worth noting that Chudzik’s traditional and extended bowing technique is masterful and adds another layer of excellence to what is already compelling material.
The album ends on a fittingly rhapsodic and triumphant note, leaving the listener with chills of optimism, not an easy task in 2019. The first two doses of Chudzik solo works have me hooked and in a state of already very much jonesing for Vol 3!
-Kevin Coultas, 3.10.19, In On the Corner
Many is the time I have watched Chudzik and his double-bass on stage with the Talea Ensemble, each time becoming more impressed by his rock-solid musicianship and his deep engagement with the works being played. But that is only a tiny slice of his interests and his accomplishments, as demonstrated by this second volume of solo work, four pieces for bass, sometimes with electronics, that show a great deal of imagination and invention. And not just in the way he structures his compositions but also in the broad perspective he has toward the sonic possibilities of his instrument. I hope other composers hear this and grow the repertoire further.
-Jeremy Shatan, 4.1.19, AnEarful
On this fifty-two-minute sequel to 2015's inaugural solo works volume, Greg Chudzik fashions four pieces using layered double basses and in so doing parts company from the preceding set's electric bass focus. What might at first appear to signify a concentration on the resourcefulness and richness of acoustic timbres is, however, altered by the usage of electronics and effects. Consequently, these four pieces sometimes end up resembling ensemble works than solo settings when built into dynamic, rhythmically forceful performances. As one might expect, bass lines act as animating elements in pieces that receive an added boost from the live feel, the impression created of an advanced musician thinking on his feet and spontaneously reacting to musical developments as they happen. Among other things, Chudzik's considerable acumen as a player and assured handler of extended techniques is consistently evidenced.
He certainly brings a wealth of experience to the project and is in no way cowed by the prospect of executing everything solo. He's associated with numerous outfits, among them Signal Ensemble, Empyrean Atlas, Wet Ink Ensemble, Bing and Ruth, and Talea Ensemble, and has worked with figures as diverse as Steve Coleman (on Morphogenesis and Synovial Joints), Steve Reich (Pulse / Quartet), Brian Ferneyhough, Pierre Boulez, and Tristan Perich. Being comfortable operating in contemporary classical, jazz, and experimental contexts serves him well in tackling the varied challenges a solo project such as this entails.
If the opening Wind Hymnal exudes a rather plaintive air, it's likely attributable in part to it having been written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With great care, Chudzik assembles bowed figures into a hypnotic, see-sawing structure that eventually separates into a rhythmic foundation and soloistic gestures. The fourteen-minute running-time allows the material to progress unhurriedly through its many sections, the moods changing from ponderous to turbulent as it advances. Chudzik brings organizing shape to the composition by restating the mournful opening passage before venturing into another exploration, the shifts in direction suggestive of the violent ruptures a natural disaster can impose so suddenly. He also shows himself to be a deft handler of transitions, with a somewhat Reich-ian episode segueing smoothly into the quiet resolution at track's end. The What changes things up dramatically with a high-spirited homage to David Eggers' novel What is the What, in this case the bassist fashioning an interlocking 7/8 rhythm whose driving ostinato pulse feels as indebted to rock'n'roll as Africa. Coupling pizzicato and arco playing does much to hold the listener's attention, as does backing bowed lines with a funky slap bass groove.
At eighteen minutes the longest of the four pieces, Y'Chi shifts the focus to sustained masses, the bowed rumbling generated by the double bass at the outset suggesting something like deep-level whale vocalizations captured by recording equipment, albeit foggily, at the water's surface. With the masses unfurling slowly, the material alternately begins to evoke the slow-motion undulations of a massive sea vessel; eventually, high harmonics and interlacing solo expressions introduce a melodic, at times supplicating dimension to the soundscape-styled aspects of the design. Automated Ocean strays more than the others from the instrument's natural acoustic timbres through its generous integration of electronic treatments into the sound design, Chudzik here using MIDI data to accompany the bass via auto-tune. Though fluttering, synth-like effects sparkle through the opening minutes, the presentation isn't wholly given over to electronics when Chudzik balances it with bowed lines that maintain a connecting thread to the preceding pieces. An unexpected development arises midway through when off-kilter hocketing figures announce a further shift in the presentation, the moment lasting briefly before a plunge into a convulsively flickering sequence and finally a neon-lit, minimalism-inflected coda.
There's much to recommend the recording, from the imagination displayed by Chudzik in his constantly altering of the presentation to the deliberate contrasts in tone and style of the four settings. The listener's attention never flags when the material and the bassist's execution of it are engaging and delivered with conviction, and, as one might expect, the single-instrument focus also allows for a full appreciation of Chudzik's considerable command of the double bass and his maximization of its expressive potential.
-Ron Schepper, 4.27.19, Textura