The Constable’s bass quake

Bass. It is considered by most to be part of the rhythm section—the drive and backbone of much of the music we listen to. From classical to jazz, the bass traditionally is used to keep the music in motion and to provide a chordal foundation for other instruments. The other instruments then provide melody and harmony, which we listeners hum on the way to our cubicles each morning.

Of course, bass players everywhere may disagree with this, especially those who witnessed the second annual Sacramento Bass Looping Festival, held last weekend at Constable Jack’s in Newcastle ( There, the bass was revealed to be a much more versatile instrument—capable not only of rhythm and foundational structure but also of melody, harmony and new-age noodling.

The evening was not only about the bass as über-instrument. It also was about looping technology, a point brought home immediately by the opening act, Orbis, a Sacramento-based project of bassist Mark Harmon and guitarist Mike Roe, both of the 77s, and bassist Nick Willow. The basic idea is that bass lines are recorded digitally and then played back in a loop, augmented, reversed, echoed, etc., until a pastiche of music is created. With Orbis, this pastiche achieved something of a mellow, new-age vibe.

The Windham Hill vibe continued through Steve Lawson’s set. Lawson, an English musician on tour in the United States, performed completely solo, looping again and again on an initial pattern until his music sounded as full as Yanni’s Live at the Acropolis. Unfortunately, as with much new-age music, the result grew tedious quickly, particularly after the event was into its second hour.

A slight breath of fresh air was brought in by the evening’s headliner, Michael Manring. Eschewing the loop, Manring performed solo bass pieces that were astounding in their virtuosity, including a stab at Bach’s first suite for solo cello. The set wasn’t quite in keeping with the “bass looping” theme but was interesting despite its fusion-jazz feel. More information on upcoming bass events like the Looping Festival can be found at the organizer’s Web site:

In other news, Davis residents will be heartened to find out that there is a move to bring live music back to the UC Davis campus. The ASUCD Coffee House Lounge (essentially the school cafeteria) already has featured college darling Onelinedrawing and presents upcoming dates with Low Flying Owls (February 9) and Idealistic (February 25). Unfortunately, the ASUCD Web site is two years out of date, so your best bet will be to watch for fliers in the Davis area and keep your ears open.

On the glam-folk front, Elena Powell’s newest CD, Alta Nova, has been augmented with two music videos (for the album’s title track and “Marianne”). Also of note, Powell’s music has been picked up for the soundtrack of More Than Money’s Worth, a film being released later this year by Mindscape Pictures. A soundtrack album will follow from Silent Spirit Records. More information can be found at