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Saturday, July 22, 2017

CD Review: Gavin Barras – The Family Tree

Gavin Barras (double bass); Jeff Guntren (tenor); Jim Faulkner (guitar); Dave Walsh (drums) + (on 2 tracks) Gavin Barras (acoustic guitar); Rhiannon James (viola); Margit van der Zwan (cello).
(Review by Lance).
“Best known for his work with trumpeter Matthew Halsall” says the blurb. And it’s true. Barras has appeared with Halsall in the locality [NE UK] over recent years. However, the bassist/composer’s most recent visit was as part of the Dean Stockdale Trio with whom he excelled.
He excels here too performing his own compositions all of which have family connections in one form or another.
Perhaps the strongest family connection is the instrument Barras is playing – a double bass crafted by his father, luthier Steve Barras. Not surprisingly, the album is dedicated to Steve.

The opening track is also a family affair; Swingin’ Charlie is inspired by Gavin’s new born baby and, after a protracted opening, all four players show their mettle before cooling down with a lyrical closure.
Waltz for my Wife positively exudes love and I’m sure Mrs Barras wasn’t embarrassed by this musical portrait. More lyricism.
Sunnyside has Gavin on acoustic guitar (an instrument also fashioned by dad back in 1967) along with Rhiannon James and Margit van der Zwan on viola and cello respectively (those instruments were probably made by some upstart in Cremona). Despite the title, it’s a rather melancholy piece that could have ran longer than its 1:15 to be fully appreciated.
CBGB has lots of Crash, Bang, Wallop from Walsh – very effective CBW I hasten to add - whilst the composer provides the musical maypole for Guntren and Faulkner to dance merrily around.
More dancing, or to be more precise, collective improvisation on The Family Tree and the impression is that the whole family are in there having a ball.
Steve’s Song, a jaunty ska-like opus that may have been inspired by a trip to Barbados or thereabouts with dad, has a bass opener that sees Walsh enter in Caribbean mode whilst Guntren and Faulkner limbo over and under the bar. Guntren’s one of the more interesting tenor players around and Faulkner the perfect foil.
Lowdown (in the Lowlands) has a Mingusian minor feel to it that doesn’t do it any harm at all.
Mossy Lea’s a ballad described as an ode to the area of The Peak District where the composer lives and, from what I can recall of a cycling holiday I spent around Glossop some years back, Barras and his boys do it justice. Walsh, in particular being very sympathetic to the mood.
The second guitar, viola and cello opus is 35 Years Later. An enigmatic title that, like the first trio track is very short (1.51) yet not without charm.
Finally, Last Thing (for Ed K), has a floating rhythm rather as if The Train and the River had been recorded 50 years later.
Well worth checking out for those on the inside who like to take a peep at the outside. Do it, it won’t hurt.
Lance.
Available on ASC Records.


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