If Charles Mingus had been a pianist, musicians would be falling over themselves trying to make "Haitian Fight Song" into the next "Blue Monk", "A Train" or "Bolivia." But on the jazz hierarchy of respect, most bassists, like the instruments they play, wind up on the bottom.
Not so for Montréal's Normand Guilbeault, whose "Basso Continuo" pays
tribute to the music of jazz's bass greats. This is not a disc of
low-register strutting and acrobatics, however.
Guilbeault's quintet focuses on the rich compositional legacy left by Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Garrison, Paul Chambers and others. Standouts includeScott Lafaro's moody ballad "Jade Vision," an inspired New Orleans romp through Pettiford's "Tricotism" and a gut-wrenching arrangement of Mingus's Meditation on Integration" that is the album's centrepiece. Only the choice of Jaco Pastorius "Teen Town" and the omission of anything by Charlie Haden seem questionable, but it's a minor quibble.
Guilbeault gives his musicians generous room to solo, ensuring that this is a group effort and is rewarded with solid playing, particularly by bass clarinetist Mathieu Bélanger. Basso Continuo is a proud tribute that goes far to extend the legacy.