Listening to Noam Wiesenberg for the first time on his debut disc Roads Diverge you will be immediately struck by the quietude of his playing – despite the fact that almost all of this is done pizzicato on the contrabass. It’s only when you read his biography and you realise that he spent twelve years playing cello in a symphony orchestra that you come to understand, and appreciate, the softness of his articulation, which sounds as if it almost like playing con arco. And yet Mr Wiesenberg loses none of the “bigness” of his sound. Happily, however, he forsakes a total domination of the music which many ham-handed bassists of his generation favour. Instead, Mr Wiesenberg prefers to be inclusive and allow the myriad textures of the contrabass, drums, piano (or Fender Rhodes), brass and woodwinds coalesce in an aural palette that is molten and luminous.
Achieving a sort of chamber-like sound with such disparate instrumentation has to do with thinking like an orchestral arranger. There is also a need to have an ear for the individual sounds of each of the participating musicians. Both these gifts Mr Wiesenberg has in spades. And this has enabled him to write works that work as if they were conceived for a much larger ensemble than we have here. While the music is visual and often suggestive of the psychological and the philosophical – both “Capricorn Lady” and “Davka” are perfect examples – the music of this young bassist is to be understood in purely musical terms and that too, almost bereft of gratuitous virtuosity. What marks the music out as uniquely his own is the way in which he decorates a simple phrase not as ornament for ornament’s sake but as the expression of a deeply felt emotion.
The best example of this is “Roads Diverge”. The beauty of the piece is enhanced by the presence of saxophonist Dayna Stephens to whom the music seems to speak in secrets only he can understand, secrets that Mr Stephens reveals as if he were lifting a gossamer curtain to reveal something quite magical. Another wonderful work is the elementally wistful song “The Tourist” on which Mr Wiesenberg plays in an enchanted con arco pattern that dissolves just before the pizzicato solo break which, in turn, melts into playing con arco in later choruses until it finally fades into darkness. Magical performances abound everywhere and the presence of pianist Shai Maestro with his vivid arabesques makes for riveting listening throughout.
Track list – 1: Prelude; 2: Resfeber; 3: Shir Le’Shir; 4: Where Do We Go from Here; 5: Roads Diverge; 6: Capricorn Lady; 7: Davka; 8: Melody for Ido; 9: The Tourist
Personnel – Noam Wiesenberg: contrabass; Philip Dizack: trumpet; Shai Maestro: piano, Fender Rhodes; Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone (5), Immanuel Wilkins: alto saxophone and clarinet; Kush Abadey: drums
Released – 2018
Record Label – BJU Records (BJUR 067)
Runtime – 48:13