Jens Fossum is modest bordering on diffidence about his contribution to Bass Detector, his first solo album after a decade supporting Hilde Louise Asbjornsen and with the late Sigurd Kohn.
He clearly thrives on the exchange between his collaborators, and though his bass features prominently on seven tracks, all self penned, and bookended by the funky Walter Freeman’s Pick of Choice and satiny Frida’s Lullaby, he is quite happy to step into the shadows and allow the alto sax of Havard Fosum – his brother – or Are Halvorsen, assume control.
But if you have an ear for bass, then Bass Detector is essential listening. You get to appreciate Fossum the soloist and Fossum the collaborator, and in Walter Freeman’s Pick of Choice you are in the company of a tight knit band rather than an assembly of maverick if gifted session musicians.
Though Fossum is content to surrender the foreground, (Zanzibar is a tune brought for a walk by a frolicsome sax), his fingerprints are all over Bass Detector: there is no compromise in his desire to explore the synergies between string instruments from contrasting cultures, and Torquemeda is as African as it is Swedish.
On Bass Detector, Fossum plays as many instruments as Mike Olfield on Tubular Bells, including electric bass, double bass, cello, piccolo bass, piccolino mini bass, roland midi bass, various guitars, keys, drums, perc, er-hu (from China) pipa and mandolin.
The pace never slackens, and the temp is always set by Fossum: Ocean Drive is simply a gorgeous hybrid of sounds, cemented by Fossum’s pumping funk rhythms, aided and abetted in manic dynamism by Jorn Oien on keyboards and Ivar Thormodsaether on percussion.
Bass Detector is an exchange between equals, ending on the vertiginous summit of Frida’s Lullaby, the shortest track by far, a sumptuous adieu by Fossum, as different from the opening Walter Freeman’s Pick of Choice as chalk and cheese, but emblematic of this recording’s essence: contrast, experimentation and no compromise.