Boomkat Product Review:
It's that time of the year again, when the amazing Dust to Digital label pull together another one of their now legendary box-sets for release in typically lavish fashion. This time it's a three cd box complete with full bound book which we've got to look forward to, and each cd is as usual jam packed with amazing music from the archives. The focus here is on the lesser spotted double bass, an instrument which was first introduced in the mid 1920s as a replacement to the tuba. Before the double bass the tuba was the only option a band had for beefing up the low end, but the double bass proved a tighter instrument which blended far more effectively with most forms of popular music. So here Dust to Digital have prepared a retrospective of the instrument from 1925 to 1941 just before the double bass was itself replaced sadly by Fender's easy-to-manage electric bass. The first thing you notice about double bass actually is it's absolute lack of portability - I remember at school if someone was learning double bass it would be like watching a child attempt to drag a car they were so big. However the size merely increased the resonance of the thick sound that would emanate from the instrument and I still have a soft spot for its rich tonal qualities. In fact those qualities still strike now as the double bass is still very much alive in traditional jazz bands and among musical purists, but for the mainstream it has become a rarely seen relic of the past, a symbol of times long gone. The first disc in the collection details work recorded between 1925 and 1930 and we can hear a twenty-six track summation of this era; jazz, folk, calypso, ragtime and crumbling blues numbers all recorded lovingly and transferred (and remastered) from wax to digital. What you forget is that this was dance music, recorded to get those feet a-tappin' and playing this back I can imagine myself slyly sidling up to a pert young 'un in her new frock and asking her chaperone if we could dance together some. Ah, yes, it puts you in the mood for the simpler things in life - vodka in the punch bowl, a fumble while mamma ain't lookin', you know, the good memories. Disc two shoots for the later part of the double bass's evolution, from 1931 to 1941 and sees the delicate sounds cleaned up a little thanks to better recording techniques and here's where the basslines can really stand out. Those heavy tones are now so prominent in the mix I can really get a feel for the instrument. The third disc is maybe the most successful however, and in a way it's obvious why, as it's the retrospective of one specific bassist, the great Bill Johnson. This man can really strum a double bass, and across 26 tracks goes through an entire wealth of jazz, dance and folk tunes - to be honest all you really need is this disc, but the fact there are three is just proof of Dust to Digital spoiling us yet again. Such a killer box set - there's so much music here that I simply wouldn't have discovered otherwise, and as usual with the Dust to Digital stuff, it's totally unforgettable once you've made that leap. Huge recommendation, a real feelgood festive treat.