Means of Deliverance review by Critical Jazz
Bill Laswell goes “Back To The Future” with an epic acoustic solo release aptly titled Means of Deliverance. Laswell and I share a common thread that transcends music. Both Bill Laswell and I are from Kentucky and while we have never met and in all likely hood never will, there is a unique cultural bond that ties people of this region together. I jokingly refer to Kentucky as the cultural black hole of jazz when in fact the Commonwealth of Kentucky is one of the cradles of pure organic roots music and this is the Laswell p.o.v on this release. To be clear there is no country or blue grass “per se” however there is an unmistakable soulful hybrid quality with Laswell’s compositions acting as a mirror image of the area where Laswell grew up which is essentially south western Kentucky. Music from the lower southern part of the Commonwealth ties people together through celebration, through food and through all the joys and sorrows that accompany the time spent on this earth. Laswell shares his prolific talent on a most unique four string weapon of choice being the Warwick Alien fretless acoustic bass guitar.
The results are stunning.
There are the pseudo jazz intellectuals that raise an eye brow at Laswell’s work with such artists as Mick Jagger and Sting not to mention some journeys through the darker side of the metal genre but here is where these individuals are missing out. Bill Laswell is the cultural by product of his own experience. From growing up in Kentucky to sharing a stage with Sting, Laswell is a living breathing testament to what artistic purity is about. Laswell is fearless. A label owner, a virtuoso instrumentalist and a composer puts Laswell in that rare category of musical triple threat.
“Against The Upper House” opens this stellar recording and for those unfamiliar with the fretless four string it is a slightly more resonant version of the traditional upright bass used in traditional jazz ensembles today. Laswell’s composition as a deceptively subtle Appalachian sound both lyrically and in texture. Laswell displays a deft hand and keen harmonic sense as this sonic exploratory of a personal journey begins to unfold. “Ouroboros” embraces the zen like less is more approach while the harmonic movement gives one the sense of motion in a motionless state. As the tune continues the additional irony aside from Laswell and I being natives of the same state is that this release is easily a critics worst nightmare. Placing an arbitrary tag on the work of an artist I have never met is never something I am totally comfortable doing and here it is simply impossible which for me is the sign of true genius. Country, blues, folk and a plethora of influences come together into a personal hybrid that only Laswell could pull off with the precision of a surgeon. Remembering this is the same Bill Laswell that co-wrote the Herbie Hancock cross over “Rock-It” is simply amazing. “Low Country” winds up this personal journey as a blues infused reminder of the contributions of the great if not sadly forgotten Delta blues men from a time gone by.
Bill Laswell has found a magical sweet spot deeper than his own soul, he plays well beyond the music but allows the compositions to remain the voice. A virtuoso the likes of Laswell could easily become caught up in the self indulgent net of four string pyrotechnics but artists don’t do that. This is not a release in the strictest sense of the word but an experience.
The ability to transform memories and raw emotion into an organic presentation such as this is as honest, as raw and as real as music gets. Bill Laswell hears sound differently than most people, his gift of harmonic invention is a textured wonderland that others can only dream of.
Bill Laswell is why I write about music.
Tracks: Against The Upper House; A Dangerous Road; Ouroboros; Buhala; Bagana/Sub Figura X; In Falling Light; Aeon; Epiphaneia; Lightning In The South; Low Country.
Bill Laswell: Warwick Alien fretless four-string acoustic bass.
Review by Critical Jazz