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Michael Bisio: Travel Music

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Dedicated to his parents, Paul and Kathleen Bisio, who taught him “the Sound of Love,” bassist Michael Bisio’s first self-released Travel Music communicates the unique sound quality of his playing. Emboldened to vibrate the bass strings for releasing rare resonances, Bisio allows his uninhibited approach to his instrument come through.

His pizzicato has no match. Central musical lines are clearly established; surrounding them are ornaments for which the source seems mysteriously unknowable. This observation seems true not only concerning the pieces that have slow, often protracted, tempos, as in the opening “Travel Music” and later Charlie Haden’s “Human Being,” but also for the pieces that have tempos which slightly increase to accommodate the accompanying fireworks. “Nitro, Don’t leave Home Without It” exemplifies this perfectly; employing his arco technique, easily as complex as his pizzicato, Bisio produces a continuous stream of deep-tones that combine with high-pitched ones, which eventually collapse into a melody that he closes simply with single notes.

Bisio’s music comprises most of the album. His own compositions project an inescapable reverence, both for the instrument he plays and the music that arises from the playing. Bisio is serious; this gravity transposes to the tunes. In “MI,” he works so hard that his breath can be heard as he exercises his tough agile fingers across the sounding board, creating dynamics that have no name. In the following “Oil,” his bowing strokes form more than just ground; they go underground.

The closing “Alabama” by John Coltrane integrates a straight-forward, but dilated, arco statement of the tune with a pizzicato improvisation suggesting Spanish guitar playing, where his fingers move quickly over the strings to structure the music. The strength of the phrasing imparted in the last bowed strokes of the theme’s reprise reveals the intensity of Bisio’s sense of substance.

Originally Published