If you are – like me – someone who let Freddie Bryant’s recording, Dreamscape pass you by like a ship in the night and then let it get buried under the pile of music on a shelf near your desk then you are – like me – not really eligible for forgiveness. Mea maxima culpa… So, let’s take remedial action now, while we still can: Let’s celebrate Freddie Bryant and Dreamscape.
To begin at the beginning, Freddie Bryant is an all-round technician; a true master of the strings and the frets, and of resonance, colour timbre and if it were possible to abandon pizzicato playing for arco bowing, he would be master of that too. He is not only a master of style who has embraced all sorts of music from highbrow to rock and everything in between, and can move effortlessly from one to the other and bring the riches of one into the other as well. He is a guitarist’ guitarist: individual, inspired, original and daring. Dreamscape is his seventh record and he is preparing to release his eighth one shortly.
On this “trio, duo, solo” recording, as it has been subtitled, Freddie Bryant has enriched the repertoire of even great musicians such as Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden with some of the most imaginative commissions by a musician on any instrument. Ask Me Now, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and “For Turiya” are adventurous, breathtaking and each is a certifiable masterpiece. Of his own compositions there is nothing more exciting than “Songs”. On Bruno Martino’s “Estate” and on Sammy Fain’s “Secret Love” it’s as if he started out to make the guitar respond like a full orchestra…and did. And who but Bryant could turn a hollow-body electric guitar into a burnished acoustic classical one on “Vignette #2”?
But that piece is a trio recording and features some gloriously “blue” chord changes by Freddie Bryant. It has been superbly arranged as well and has some of the most exciting counterpoint between himself and Chris Potter, whose moist and melancholic solo on bass clarinet is simply wonderful. The duo, of course, outdoes itself in the grand manner with its performance of the Negro Spiritual “I’m Going to Tell God All of My Troubles”. The near-arco caressing of the nylon strings is unmatched and just as wondrous as the pizzicato-like plucking by Bryant. Not to be outdone, of course, is Scott Colley is very the epitomé of word “maestro” on “Vignette”.
The guitar has a huge vocabulary of sounds and effects, combinable to make it sound as big and rich as an ensemble but we need the player of great insight to deploy these effectively and at once. They range from harmonics and pizzicato to technique exotica such as ‘nut-side’ ‘nail-sizzle’ or ‘bi-tone’ tapping (plus a battery of percussion possibilities; every guitar comes with a drum set attached. This all comes together on both “Serenade” and on Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” played by Freddie Bryant.
The inclusion of “I’m Going to Tell God All of My Troubles” performed by Beatrice Rippy, one of Opera’s great and unsung sopranos, and Carroll Hollister, Freddie Bryant’s mother and father, who close out the album provide the raison d’ être for this recording, in a manner of speaking. It is the “Invisible song/as she holds you infinitely/as a memory in your soul”. This and a multitude of sentiments and emotions fill the sails of the album and are at the heart of this unforgettable homage to his mother and father by Freddie Bryant.
Track List: 1: Dreamscape; 2: Ask Me Now; 3: Vignette #1; 4: Vignette #2; 5: Goodbye Porkpie Hat; 6: Songs; 7: Estate; 8: Secret Love; 9: I’m Going to Tell God All of My Troubles; 10: Everyday Is the End and the Beginning of Life Beautiful; 11: Serenade; 12: Watermelon Man; 13: Fantasia On a Theme By Charlie Haden: For Turiya; 14: Silence; 15: I’m Going to Tell God All of My Troubles.
Personnel: Freddie Bryant: 12-string (1), arch top (2, 5, 6), electric (1, 4, 10) and nylon strong (3, 7 – 9, 11 – 14) guitars; Chris Potter: bass clarinet (6, 9), tenor (10) and soprano (1) saxophones; Scott Colley: acoustic bass (1 – 3, 6, 10); Beatrice Rippy: soprano, and Carroll Hollister: piano (15).