RICHARD DOVE is bedazzled by a phenomenal bassist
Being a virtuoso musician presents a fresh set of responsibilities. You can play anything at any tempo, and you do. The results are not always, shall we say, rewarding and affecting.
That could not be said for bassist Shri Sriram and his quartet at Ronnie Scott’s. Shri’s fretless bass was accompanied by the keyboards and analogue synthesizers of Bugge Wesseltof, the energetic drums of Gary Husband and the adventurous trombone of Dennis Rollins. Shri’s bass playing is a wonder, combining delicate tones and robust, percussive slapping. The music is taken and transformed from Shri’s recent album The Letter, produced and released by Bugge on his own Jazzland label.
You can hear that Shri is very influenced by German bass legend Eberhard Weber. His compositions are tone poems with unexpected twists and turns. The bass lines are restrained as we journey across empty Arctic landscapes, and then Mumbai at rush hour when the bass almost becomes a tabla.
Shri announces a “British classic”. Is that Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ with jazz inflections? It surely is, and we cross from Mumbai to Bromsgove. Rollins seems to be playing an accompanying riff and soloing at the same time. Bugge gets his analogue squeaks and swirls going, and the band lock together. It is as if they are at the end of a lengthy tour, but this is a one-off performance to a packed house. Many more audiences need to see what this unique quartet of gifted and empathetic musicians can do. They close with a lilting, jerky reggae version of a tune already played – clearly, an improvised mash up with some magnificently dexterous bass from Shri.
You leave with a smile. We all did. As my friend observed, there is nothing better than live music in the right place at the right time. Come back soon, Shri.
RICHARD DOVE writes from Kent