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Scott Harlan: More Than Meets the Ear

If you already love the bass, prepare to be wowed by the sheer dexterity and imagination of Scott Harlan-an accomplished engineer as well as a virtuoso player. New initiates may be amazed to learn, as per Harlan’s album title, that there’s More Than Meets the Ear (Name Brand NB0475; 68:37) to the instrument. Harlan enlists a tight band for fusion exercises like “Groove 101,” the hard-funk “Circles,” and sly piano/bass/flute quilting “Cat and Mouse,” all of which spotlight different aspects of the bass-from hard slap-and-pop to pumping walks and fleet, dark soloing. Nestled amongst the ensemble pieces are a several solo bass clinics, which prove a good test of your stereo speakers’ ability to handle the low end. Where the prickly, scary-fast “Bee” dares you to catch your breath with its tense flight, “Mirror” works out on the harmonics. While technically impressive and interesting, these pieces aren’t quite melodic enough to be mainstream accessible. A noteworthy exception is “Autumn Air,” the album’s most memorable showcase tune, which portrays the colors of the bass-from trembling melody and singing low-resonance to sparkling harmonics-with a vivid, almost visually evocative quality.

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