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The London Double Bass Sound / Karr, Simon, Et Al


Release Date: 12/07/1999 
Label:  Cala Records   Catalog #: 110   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Camille Saint-SaënsNiccolò PaganiniCole PorterBilly Strayhorn,   ... 
Performer:  Gary Karr
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The excellent engineering will have you wishing for a subwoofer. The very first notes on this CD nearly blew me out of living room, and they definitely rattled my windowpanes.

Cala Records has reached the bottom, literally speaking, of its "London Sound Series" with this release. If I had known this disc was up for review, I probably would have requested it anyway. I would have had no idea, however, that it would be this much fun.

The individuals behind the selection of the repertoire for this CD may have wanted both to reinforce and to explode stereotypes about the double bass's personality. Rearranging Saint-Saëns's "The Elephant" with four unison basses taking the melody and a
Read more second four providing the accompaniment only increases the piece's "heavy" humor. Similarly, the intrinsic Victorian fatuousness of the Beatles' When I'm 64 is intensified when a squad of "bull fiddles" saws away at it. At the same time, one doesn't necessarily anticipate the agility of the double bass in a giddy showpiece such as Daniel van Goens's Scherzo (originally written for cello and piano), nor does one expect the instrument to go all romantic in an arrangement of "I Love You, Samantha" from Cole Porter's High Society, or in the Flower Song from Bizet's Carmen. All that—and considerably more—is on this CD.

It is impossible to put the instrument's distinctive timbre aside, however, nor should one even try. The timbre is what gives this CD its galumphing charm. One doesn't need to laugh at the double bass, but one can hardly help but smile as it aspires to ardency or gossamer lightness. One basic ingredient of humor, after all, is an incongruity between the means and the end.

Not everything on this disc works equally well. The Spice Girls make even most pop ephemera seem lasting, and the arrangement of their single Wannabe will be funny only as long as people remember the original song at all, which will be the case . . . oh, for another three weeks. Take Five, made famous by Dave Brubeck and company, just doesn't survive the translation, particularly in this abbreviated version. The Frère Jacques Fantasy is simply a rather pointless distillation of the third movement of Mahler's First Symphony. Otherwise, Daryl Runswick's arrangements are more or less successful; some, such as Ellington's Satin Doll and Victor Young's When I Fall in Love (the latter features principal double bassist Tom Martin) are as good as they come. Several of the selections are for double basses alone, but others add harp, electric bass, or drums. I would have preferred "pure" double basses throughout.

Finally, it should be noted that most of the bassists on this disc are associated with English orchestras. Gary Karr, the "guest soloist," is an American, and he is one of the very few double bassists to have made a successful solo career. His work in Paganini's Moses Fantasy and van Goens's Scherzo is chin-droppingly good. He plays a 1611 Amati previously owned by Serge Koussevitzky.

The excellent engineering will have you wishing for a subwoofer. The very first notes on this CD nearly blew me out of living room, and they definitely rattled my windowpanes. The disc was produced with Cala's "Tapeless Technology, " including a "Genex 24-bit Magneto Optical Disk." Whatever that means, the results are impressive. This CD is off the beaten path, and although it is entertaining in the "pops" manner, it is more than just a silly diversion.

- Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare Issue 23:5 (May/June 2000)
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Works on This Recording

1.
Carnival of the animals: no 5, Elephants by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
2.
Introduction and Variations from Rossini's Mosè "Dal tuo stellato soglio" by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1819 
3.
I Love You, Samantha by Cole Porter
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
4.
Satin Doll by Billy Strayhorn
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; New York, USA 
5.
Carmen Fantasy by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
6.
Show Boat: Ol' Man River by Jerome Kern
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; USA 
7.
Wannabe by Spice Girls
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1997 
8.
American Basses by Daryl Runswick
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
9.
Scherzo for Cello and Piano, Op. 12 by Daniel Van Goëns
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: Romantic 
10.
No, No, Nanette: Tea for Two by Vincent Youmans
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; USA 
11.
When I Fall in Love by Victor Young
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
12.
Take Five by Paul Desmond
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961/1962; USA 
13.
When I'm Sixty-Four by Paul McCartney
Performer:  Gary Karr (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Geoffrey Simon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Double Bass Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1967; England 
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with John Lennon. 

Featured Sound Samples

Show Boat (Kern): Ol' Man River
Scherzo for Cello and Piano (Van Goëns)

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