Slingshot CD Review – The Jason Raso Quartet (Moped Records 2013)
I may not know the first thing about jazz, but I know what I like – and I like this disc by the Jason Raso Quartet called Slingshot. Coming from a ‘rock’ guy, this is truly saying something.
When I think of jazz music, for some reason I tend to think free-form improvisational jazz, so if that’s what you’re expected you can forget about it. Slingshot is comprised of 8 tunes that each have their own structure with breakout sections where each instrument (bass, drums, piano and sax) get their chance to shine.
Mr. Raso is an accomplished bassist with 7 releases under his belt leading up to Slingshot. He’s gone the bass solo route and has come full circle with the current quartet version of the band. There is no doubt that each member of the quartet (Brent Rowan – Saxophones, Thomas Hammerton – Keyboards, Adam Bowman – Drums) can seriously hold their own, but the playing on this disc goes beyond mere skill…
…it’s damn catchy! And damn if the performances aren’t tasty as well!
Jason Raso proves that he’s a composer and band leader first and spends most of his time anchoring down the tunes and laying down a thick, grooving foundation. He gives the rest of the band plenty of space to do their thing and when it comes time for Jason to take a solo – you’re in for a treat.
With influences like Stanley Clark, Victor Wooten, Billy Sheehan and Marcus Miller, Jason has an effortless ability to morph from blistering fingerstyle passages to funky slap from one beat to the next. However, even more important is his ability to make it meaningful, to make music that breathes and resonates more with each repeated listen.
Again, this is coming from a “rock guy”; Jason Raso’s work on Slingshot is helping me to see the light at last.
My favourite bass performance on the disc is on the third track called “My Mind Wanders”. Jason takes the lead shortly after the introduction with the main theme to the song slapped on his Fodera NYC 4 with a little auto-wah thrown in for good measure. At 1:16 Jason lays down a grooving foundation solid enough to park an aircraft carrier on, proving the man can hold it down when needed.
However, the solo he takes at 2:21 shows that he’s equally at home with melody and expression on the bass. My absolute favourite section goes from 3:04 to 3:15 where Jason builds up to a simple but very funky slap part.
I asked Jason to pick out his personal favourite track and he chose “Handprint Garden of Love” as a standout bass performance on the disc. At about the 5 minute mark on that track Jason’s bass takes center stage, starting out by restating the main melody before embarking on a sweet solo that lasts until the 6:30 mark. Through it all, Jason has the uncanny ability to display his prowess on the instrument while keeping it musical and not a “Look, I can play!” type of display.
Slingshot is a solid disc with zero filler. Not only will you be inspired by some fantastic bass playing, but the melodies and compositions will stick in your head and have you humming hours after you’ve taken the headphones off.
The (not so)Bad:
There’s only 8 tracks on here, which is more than enough for the money but you may still be left wanting more. You may have feelings of envy that you either can’t play or compose as well as Jason….or that the musicians in your band just don’t quite measure up. In a few spots, the bass seems a little low in the mix (like at the start of Handprint Garden of Love) forcing you to turn it up. Again – not necessarily a bad thing!
While Jason’s much prized Spector Coda (purple!) and NS 5H2 didn’t arrive in time for the recordings, you can still check out the Jason’s Coda bass on the disc cover.
Jason brandished his Fodera NYC 4, A Modulus jazz bass, A Fodera Emperor 5 and a Spector NS 2J during the Slingshot recording sessions, plugged it into his TC Electronic RH 450 head and recorded direct. He also added some additional sonic colours by using an Electronic Flashback Delay, an MXR Bass Octave Deluxe and an Electro Harmonix Qtron.
Jason strings up all of his basses with DR Marcus Miller signature strings.
- Dip & Dodge
- My Mind Wanders
- Two for Bella
- Are You ___ Serious
- The Tornado Stole My Hamburger Blues
- Handprint Garden of Love
- All That Democracy Jazz
If the Jason Raso quartet can win over a self-professed hard rocker, then I think anyone with an appreciation for well composed and superbly executed music will find something to like on this disc. Whether it’s the bossa-nova feel of “Two for Bela”, the frenetic drums that kick off “Are You ____Serious” and the wailing sax solo that draws that same song to its conclusion – Slinghot is sweet ear candy indeed.
Grab a copy of Slingshot for yourself on Itunes or at here or on iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/slingshot/id657908342
I just found out that today is Jason's birthday - why don't you get yourself a present in his honour and pick up this disc for your collection today!