From 2016. Not one but two double bassists on stage together, no microphones, no effects, the only distraction, an extra, when each of the bassists sat down in the interests of variety to accompany each other briefly on the piano.
Christian McBride, who grinned at the audacity of the task at hand, Edgar Meyer deadpanning that the two were touring in a format “without historical precedent” the sets were just about the right length and the time passed quickly enough but no, a concert featuring even two of the best bass players you could find anywhere, doesn’t quite satisfy.
The very respectful crowd liked it loads (I spotted a few very well known bassists in the audience). A dinner-jacketed announcer welcomed the musicians to the stage – coughs must be stifled the instructions on the programme note insist.
McBride is a dazzling player and he and Meyer who is known for bluegrass and classical music including work with Chris Thile, the mandolinist who has performed at Wigmore with Brad Mehldau, swapped arco and plucked bass roles for sheer kicks and more importantly to tell a story, the contrasts in attack and mobility each style allows feeding into a fluency the two rhythm masters conjured.
Meyer in his set-up deepened his bass range for the low notes with a stick extender on his scroll and besides the extra depth facilitated his style is noticeably different to McBride’s, his sliding action and less beefy tone hugely slippery and responsive: he can go up and down octaves in a heartbeat and you can almost feel he is a step away from a hoedown or interloper at a banjo duel.
The best bits were the classic jazz standards including ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Stella by Starlight’ the latter a delight opening the second set, and most fun was ‘FRB’ as in “forget Ray Brown” a riff on a Ray Brown initiative to render ‘FSR’ who forgot Sonny Rollins by altering the shout chorus to avoid borrowing too much of ‘Doxy’ for royalty reasons. It takes more than guts to play a Cinderella concert like this and two Cinderellas, these fellas, went to the ball and loved it. Stephen Graham