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Grace by David Friesen & Jeff Gardner

One valid observation about bassists is that they have a physical connection with their instruments. Not separated by, say, keys or mallets--that is, not separated from the sources of the vibrations that produce the sound--bassists, underrated though they may be, maintain a feel for the pulse of music that radiates throughout their entire body. A direct connection exists from the tips of their fingers to the humming of the strings. Sheila Jordan is one of the few singers who appreciates such a tactile relationship between musician and instrument, and she dedicated to the concept an entire album, I’ve Grown Accustomed To The Bass.

Yet, in spite of bassists’ devotion to their instruments, David Friesen takes such care to a higher level, so much so that his single-mindedness is apparent even to the casual listener. One needs only look at his bass to see the difference: It sports no head where the bass normally is tuned. Appearing more like an electronic instrument, truncated and somewhat visually outlined rather than fully developed, Friesen’s Hemage bass, specially made for him in Austria, suggests a uniqueness that is present in his music too.

On Grace, Friesen joins in a jaw-dropping duo performance with pianist Jeff Gardner, who shares Friesen’s aesthetic sensibilities, which put extraordinary technique in the service of musical communication. Those sensibilities consist in large part of playing around the melody, outlining a tune with a suggestion here or an interjection there. Even in the midst of their ironic mixture of spare choices of note with a rolling fluid movement, Friesen and Gardner join together without the intervention of drums in a give-and-take that highlights their deep-rooted understanding of the other’s direction and harmonic choices made along the way.

Most of the tunes on Grace are Gardner’s, and it becomes evident that he possesses an interest in and a feeling for Latin idiom, as he slips coyly into clavé in the midst of "Esquecendo" or as he and Friesen establish a comforting samba on "Achados E Perdidos."

For enthusiasts of Frisen’s talent, he performs without piano on his composition, "Change Of Heart," as he takes his time in creating atmosphere and a compelling statement throughout over nine minutes of scampering, snapping and singing bass work.

Even the standards ring with cogent logic and irresistible appeal. "My Funny Valentine" proceeds as a meditative takeoff on the chord structure, Friesen and Gardner trading melodic lines and then countering with their own statements, as if in conversation. And "All The Things You Are," seemingly chosen for its unfettered sweep, amounts to a push into the chord changes as piano and bass anticipate the beat with nudging propulsion. Grace, yes, contains more than its share of the quality named in the CD’s title. As I finish writing about this CD, it occurs to me that "grace" is the state attained in some of its more transcendent moments.

Jeff Gardner's website:

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Friesen & Jeff Gardner
  • CD Title: Grace
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Khaeon
  • Tracks: Esquecendo, Blues For Hawk, Grace, All The Things You Are, Change Of Heart, Preludio Para Rita, Achados E Perdidos, Dad’s Dream, Mr. Vertigo, My Funny Valentine
  • Musicians: David Friesen (bass), Jeff Gardner (piano)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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