Palette of Sounds
Unit UTR 4131 CD

With pianists, guitarists, percussionists and even saxophonists putting their art on show and recording solo sessions, it was just a matter of time before other instrumentalists followed suit. Now a tuba soloist has exposed his bell and valves for all to hear.

Musical solitaire shouldn't reflect the absence of other players however. A theoretical conception of what can be accomplished is as important as what finally comes out of the horn; as such seasoned practitioners of solo alchemy as John Butcher, Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton have proven.

Swiss tubaist Leo Bachmann has even more of a challenge. Not only must he invent a solo language, but he has also to do so while banishing any childhood memories we have of Tubby the Tuba. In truth, he's only partially successful on this disc.

A dexterous technician, who has studied both at the Conservatory of Lucerne and with American jazz tuba master Bob Stewart, his CD is obviously designed to highlight the different tones of which the unwieldy brass beast is capable. But, unlike Stewart and Howard Johnson, who have already done that and more in a variety of contexts, he seems so haunted by the spectre of Tubby that his long-faced recital ignores the sly humor that could make any audience feel part of the recital.

Hearing solo tuba, after all, is analogous to watching a sumo wrestler pirouetting in a ballet tutu. You admire the moves, but a part of you wants to chuckle at the problems he faces getting into the costume and onto his toes.

Memorable sections here include "Dirty", all vocalized guttural sounds, "Pressure" which seems to celebrate the tension of the lips against the mouthpiece and "Mixed Colors", which revels in the subterranean rumbling that are produced when plumbing the deepest regions of the brass bass. Especially noteworthy, too is "Out of Balance", which far from being that, seemingly presents Bachmann duetting with himself alternating from tenor to bass tubas. This isn't studio trickery. There are no effects added; he's that good a player.

Then there's "Monochrome", which is more multicolored than that, suggesting a hip shepherd with an alphorn held high wandering up and down the hills and valleys; and "Out of Shape" — another odd title — which resolves itself into a light but lugubrious lieder.

Tenacious tuba devotees and practitioners may well be open mouthed at Bachmann's talents, and well they should. But from the rest of us, the best suggestion to him for a future solo outing would be to lighten up.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Glitter 2. Second Hand Paint 3. Black Shadow 4. Colored Shadow 5. Dirty 6. Missing Echo 7. Pressure 8. Out of Shape 9. Red Disc 10. Out of Balance 11. Merger 12. Monochrome 13. Mixed Colors

Personnel: Leo Bachmann (tuba)