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 Saturday, 28 November 2015
The Art of Solo Bates: Chris at the Rouge Buddha Gallery, December 20th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 14 December 2007

Chris BatesİAndrea Canter

Bassist Chris Bates is accustomed to musical challenges. He’s played with a diverse range of ensembles in the Twin Cities ranging from straight ahead jazz to vastly experimental efforts; he’s played with avant garde European artists at the Minnesota Sur Seine Festival since its inception. He’s a composer and sometimes-curator of modern music. But perhaps the biggest challenge, especially for a bassist, is to maintain audience interest and musicality in a solo context. Chris will demonstrate why he is considered one of the area’s most creative musicians when he performs solo at the Rouge Buddha Gallery in northeast Minneapolis on Thursday, December 20th, at 9 pm. This event is part of the gallery’s monthly iQuit series of experimental music. 

Chris Bates and his brother, drummer JT, grew up with jazz, sons of trumpeter/bandleader Don Bates. He began bass lessons in 4th grade and progressed to jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire before returning to the Twin Cities to study with Anthony Cox. A member of the Motion Poets, Chris Bates was a 1999 McKnight Composer Fellow and today plays regularly with Volcano Insurance, Low Blow, guitar trios Framework and Red Planet, the Kelly Rossum Quartet and How Birds Work, as well as appearing at times with local pianists (Laura Caviani, Chris Lomheim and more), vocalists (Rhonda Laurie) and other ensembles. 

Chris notes that “the bulk of my playing experience has been in ensembles and the bass has a specific role when placed in those settings. So naturally when given the opportunity to play without those roles in place. I have jumped at the chance.” In the past few years, Chris has played four solo gigs—at the Clown Lounge (2001), Rosalux Gallery (2003), iQuit (2005) and Dinkytowner (2006). To enhance the possibilities of solo bass on both original compositions and improvisations, Chris has turned to electronics—loops and effects “to help me create layers of sound.” He further notes that “Using electronic sounds has allowed me to create soundscapes, textures and harmonic structures that I can play over in a solo context. Every performance is different because the emphasis for me musically is on improvisation.”

Chris BatesİAndrea Canter
The focus on solo bass is not new to Chris Bates, who points out that “the early genesis of playing solo came from me performing 'Introductions' to set up Motion Poets tunes. This idea was inspired directly by Anthony Cox and Dave Holland after seeing those guys play similar intros during their own performances.” Chris has been listening to solo bass recordings, including the music of Michael Formanek, Mark Dresser, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Barre Phillips, William Parker, Gary Peacock, Marc Johnson, Peter Kowald, Damon Smith, Bert Turetzky, Gary Karr, Edgar Meyer, Avishai Cohen, John Patitucci, Fred Hopkins, Malachai Favors, Chris Wood, Adam Linz and Barry Guy, “plus a whole bunch of others I can't remember right now.” 

One of Chris’ solo compositions, which will be on the playlist at Rogue Buddha, is a piece titled “Gray Havens.”  Explains Chris, “it uses a prerecorded loop that I improvised over. This one in particular represents a good 'compositional improvisation.'” Surprisingly perhaps, the solo bass can be darkly rich and melodic, even on a relatively free formed composition like “Gray Havens.” There’s a somewhat dissonant undercurrent but the melodic core, thanks to the use of loops, allows Chris to perform with another bassist—himself! Thus over his own foundation, he coaxes a dark and mournful melody that doesn’t move away from its theme so much as it plays around it, from below and above, covering a wider range as it approaches resolution, ending in single file. And the bass of course lends itself to a variety of sounds according to the way the notes are created—plucked, bowed, glissando. There is indeed a small orchestra in the big box! 

On Thursday, December 20th at 9 pm, catch this rare solo performance by bassist Chris Bates, followed by a second set from the Poutums Jazz Trio + 1, featuring Chris Thomson (saxophones), Adam Linz (bass),  Alden Ikeda (drums) “plus” Jon Pemberton (trumpet). 

The Rogue Buddha Gallery is located at 357 13th Ave NE in Minneapolis (one block north of University and Broadway); The iQuit series features experimental music from across genres every third Thursday of the month. Suggested donation $5.

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