Articles review on the net, revue d'articles sur la toile

Inscription : feeds, flux :
(Atom) Gabriel Real World News

25 février 2007

Lowdown on Battersea's ace of bass

He plays all sorts of music but this virtuoso always does it his way, writes John Shand.

Danny Thompson has spent nearly 50 years jauntily shrugging aside accepted wisdom. The wisdom in question is that bassists are supposed to underpin music harmonically and rhythmically, and do little else.

"Sod that for a joke," Thompson seems to say on every musical outing, as he adds a luxuriant layer of double bass melody to all he plays. The result is that Thompson has been treasured by artists across all genres and on more than 250 albums. Surely no other musician has kept such diverse company. Try folk-crossover artists John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and Billy Bragg, pop-rockers Roy Orbison, Marianne Faithful, Tim Buckley, Peter Gabriel, Paul Weller and Kate Bush, classicists Nigel Kennedy and John Williams, jazzers John McLaughlin and Art Farmer, bluesmen John Lee Hooker and Joe Turner and world music stars Mara!, of Australia, and Toumani Diabate, of Mali.

Thompson has just received two gongs at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: a lifetime achievement award, and one for the contribution of his old band, Pentangle.

"How 'bout that?" he enthuses down the telephone in his cockney accent. "A bass player?" Not just any bass player. Thompson is one of the greats, in the Charles Mingus-Charlie Haden league, but because he only intermittently plays jazz, people ask him if he misses soloing. "But that's all I do," is his response, referring to the constant melodic improvising with which he accompanies people.

"I'm still serving the songs. I just play what I love to play. If I'm working with [jazz trumpeter] Freddie Hubbard, it's a bit different to working with [folk singer-guitarist] Bert Jansch, but it's still me … Someone said, 'Oh, you're playing African music with Toumani Diabate.' I said, 'I'm not playing African music. I don't play the sound of the raging Niger when I play. Battersea is where I come from, and it's a meeting of hearts. It's music of the heart."'

On his fifth Australian visit Thompson is accompanying the American bluesman Eric Bibb. "For me it's like the real thing," he says. "I've worked with Little Walter and the Blind Boys of Alabama, and I don't care what anyone says, no matter how long I've played the blues, I'm not the real dude. I mean I can play, but it would be stupid to say I'm playing the blues. I'm playing the best I can play to suit that music."

Live performance is Thompson's primary love. "I want to get that feeling of 15 and 16, playing in the garage with my mates," he says. While that excitement remains readily attainable, the truly beautiful moments are more elusive. One of them lasted the length of John Martyn's finest album, 1975's Live at Leeds, the trio completed by the late, great British jazz drummer John Stevens. "We'd all drunk buckets of creme de menthe and brandy," Thompson recalls, saying he was terrified of listening back to the tapes. "But when I heard that, I thought it was one of the best live gigs I'd done that had been recorded." Stevens, whom I interviewed in 1982, concurred.

Thompson and Martyn were as notorious for their off-stage behaviour as the beauty they produced on it. One incident involved Thompson covering the dead-drunk Martyn with a hotel- room rug, then nailing him to the floor. But that didn't compromise the musical rapport. "I loved every second of being with John," says Thompson.

Richard Thompson (no relation) is another collaborator he is glowing about. "It always amazes me that out of 85 million guitar players, you get these guys who don't sound like anybody else." That could also be said of a certain bass player.

Danny Thompson and Eric Bibb perform at the Basement tomorrow, the Blue Mountains Music Festival on March 18 and the Factory Theatre, Marrickville, on March 21.

Aucun commentaire: