1/  Against the Upper House                    (Laswell)                     4.37
  2/  A Dangerous Road                           (Laswell)                     4.32
  3/  Ouroboros                                  (Laswell)                     4.19
  4/  Buhala                                     (Laswell)                     3.15
  5/  Bagana/Sub Figura X                        (Laswell,Shibabaw)            4.20     
  6/  In Falling Light                           (Laswell)                     5.37
  7/  Aeon                                       (Laswell)                     5.13
  8/  Epiphaneia                                 (Laswell)                     4.40
  9/  Lightning In the South                     (Laswell)                     4.17
  10/ Low Country                                (Laswell)                     4.13

          Created at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey
          Engineered by: Robert Musso and James Dellatacoma
          Produced by Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw
          Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtletone, New York City
Bill Laswell: Warwick Alien fretless four string acoustic bass, samples; Gigi (5): vocals.

          2012 - Innerhythmic (USA), INR 024  (CD)
          2019 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital)


Solo bass recordings are one of the most fearsome things on the musical market... usually because they're so uninteresting, poorly recorded and monotonous. There are a few absolute masters of the craft, Dominic Duval standing out foremost in my mind. To the tiny pantheon we can now add Bill Laswell, who has just issued his first solo bass recording, Means of Deliverance, on the Innerhythmic label.

This new album is as much a full-length advertisement for the new Warwick Alien fretless acoustic bass guitar (shown below) as it is another triumph for Laswell, whose massive list of credits includes recordings and tours with John Zorn, Herbie Hancock, Curlew, Public Image Ltd. (that's his bass on the smash hit "Rise"), Pharoah Sanders, Material, Napalm Death, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Praxis, the Golden Palominos, Ginger Baker and Otomo Yoshihide. The new Warwick bass is revealed, under the hands of the master, to possess a tremendous tone that perfectly balances upright depth with bass-guitar resonance. As a bassist I'm excited to try one of these suckers myself.

But it's Laswell's flawless technique and expansive imagination that sell the product. His skill with chords, harmonics, multiple rhythms and effects are whirred together in a dizzying display of vitality throughout Means of Deliverance. He is gifted and creative enough to keep this ten-track album from sounding like one long, repetitive composition as some solo artists are wont to do. Sure, there are a handful of spots (the slightly monotonous "In Falling Light") where one begins to long for another voice in the mix. But these are few and far between, more than balanced by the sheer virtuosity and hypnotic depth of Laswell's vision.

Aside from one or two samples, the only other person on the recording is Ethiopian-born vocalist Gigi Shibabaw, Laswell's wife, who has appeared on some of his past projects and productions (Buckethead's Enter the Chicken, for one). Her bright, soulful voice is central to "Bagana/Sub Figura X", flitting over and through Laswell's throbbing, buzzing pulses. "Lightning in the South" has a heavy groove to it that would probably fill out as a great addition to the Praxis (Laswell/Buckethead/Brain) repertoire, but it's tense and exciting on its own.

Both upright players and bass guitarists will find a lot to love on this new disc, as will Laswell's regular contingent of fans. It exposes some different facets of the man and will stand as one of the better solo recordings of the era.

Todd S. Jenkins (courtesy of the Mingus Lives blog)


Bill Laswell goes "Back To The Future" with an epic acoustic solo release aptly titled Means of Deliverance. Laswell and I share a common thread that transcends music. Both Bill Laswell and I are from Kentucky and while we have never met and in all likely hood never will, there is a unique cultural bond that ties people of this region together. I jokingly refer to Kentucky as the cultural black hole of jazz when in fact the Commonwealth of Kentucky is one of the cradles of pure organic roots music and this is the Laswell p.o.v on this release. To be clear there is no country or blue grass "per se" however there is an unmistakable soulful hybrid quality with Laswell's compositions acting as a mirror image of the area where Laswell grew up which is essentially south western Kentucky. Music from the lower southern part of the Commonwealth ties people together through celebration, through food and through all the joys and sorrows that accompany the time spent on this earth. Laswell shares his prolific talent on a most unique four string weapon of choice being the Warwick Alien fretless acoustic bass guitar.

The results are stunning.

There are the pseudo jazz intellectuals that raise an eye brow at Laswell's work with such artists as Mick Jagger and Sting not to mention some journeys through the darker side of the metal genre but here is where these individuals are missing out. Bill Laswell is the cultural by product of his own experience. From growing up in Kentucky to sharing a stage with Sting, Laswell is a living breathing testament to what artistic purity is about. Laswell is fearless. A label owner, a virtuoso instrumentalist and a composer puts Laswell in that rare category of musical triple threat.

"Against The Upper House" opens this stellar recording and for those unfamiliar with the fretless four string it is a slightly more resonant version of the traditional upright bass used in traditional jazz ensembles today. Laswell's composition as a deceptively subtle Appalachian sound both lyrically and in texture. Laswell displays a deft hand and keen harmonic sense as this sonic exploratory of a personal journey begins to unfold. "Ouroboros" embraces the zen like less is more approach while the harmonic movement gives one the sense of motion in a motionless state. As the tune continues the additional irony aside from Laswell and I being natives of the same state is that this release is easily a critics worst nightmare. Placing an arbitrary tag on the work of an artist I have never met is never something I am totally comfortable doing and here it is simply impossible which for me is the sign of true genius. Country, blues, folk and a plethora of influences come together into a personal hybrid that only Laswell could pull off with the precision of a surgeon. Remembering this is the same Bill Laswell that co-wrote the Herbie Hancock cross over "Rock-It" is simply amazing. "Low Country" winds up this personal journey as a blues infused reminder of the contributions of the great if not sadly forgotten Delta blues men from a time gone by.

Bill Laswell has found a magical sweet spot deeper than his own soul, he plays well beyond the music but allows the compositions to remain the voice. A virtuoso the likes of Laswell could easily become caught up in the self indulgent net of four string pyrotechnics but artists don't do that. This is not a release in the strictest sense of the word but an experience.

The ability to transform memories and raw emotion into an organic presentation such as this is as honest, as raw and as real as music gets. Bill Laswell hears sound differently than most people, his gift of harmonic invention is a textured wonderland that others can only dream of.

Bill Laswell is why I write about music.

5 Staes out of 5

Brent Black (courtesy of the @criticaljazz website)