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Jim Lampi

North 2008 CD $12.
Jim Lampi and Michael Manring
Jim Lampi - Grand Stick
Micheal Manring - Electric Bass

Sample tracks at: cdbaby.com/cd/lampimanring

Review: Peters at CD Baby

The chance to hear a masterful musician is a wonderful thing; the chance to hear two of them play together is just heavenly. And that's just what this album is. Featuring world class Chapman Stick artist Jim Lampi, and world-renowned bass player Michael Manring, this instrumental album has touches of jazz, classical, and new age nuances, while remaining utterly listenable yet intriguing. The Chapman Stick is an unusual stringed instrument, sounding at times like a bass or guitar, at other times like a mandolin, and on the first track here, "True North", it sounds something like a harpsichord. Bringing to mind the nuanced performances of luminaries like Jaco Pastorius and Yo-Yo Ma, sounding at once composed and spontaneous. Though inspired by frozen wastelands, this album is anything but cold or discomforting.

Review: Emmett Chapman

I'm heading North this winter, as far as I can go into the land where form overtakes color, and where color fades to B&W and delicious shades of gray, which in turn take on every subtle pastel shade of the "Rainbow" (last track of the album) - brilliant pink ice, warm yellow bears and blue glacial ridges.

As on a forsaken island, things get simple, almost cartoon like - far less elements to contend with. Same is true in Northern regions where a cover of snow and ice meets the eye. Form is everywhere revealed because the eye wants to see it, following the lines.

Listening to this CD on a cold California day, "North" has that kind of simplicity, a grand unified concept from start to finish - just the fretless bass in the lead and The Stick in a myriad of accompanying roles, yet both as equals on the sonic stage. Jim creates a rich variety of icy landscapes for Michael, the explorer, to navigate. Jim's crisp dynamic Stick style is the perfect foil for Michael's smooth, horn like expressions.

Conceptually it's a live album with a minimum of electronic processing, the color and expressive "effects" coming from the players' fingers alone. Michael achieves sustained harmonics from his four bass strings, an "orchestra" of expressive tones, evoking "music of the spheres" (the logic of overtones extending the line). He also explores the extremes in time, from the most elongated, whale like tones (vowels shaped from strings and fingers alone) to intricate, driving passages reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius.

The Stick in Jim's hands is an extremely dynamic instrument and from song to song he uses it in ingenious ways - huge ranging chords, muted rhythms, plucked psaltery like arpeggios, the bravado of flamenco guitar, chiming bells, high counter-melody against Michael's baritone lead, and of course those two-handed Stick bass-with melody rhythms of endless permutation.

Of the twelve songs, ten are composed by Jim and Michael distilled from their duo improvisations. The other two are "Naima", a jazz standard by John Coltrane, and "Over the Rainbow", a Broadway standard by Harold Arlen. The feeling is always live, but with polish, precision and discipline.

How far North shall I go? Look at the cover art. That's where I'm headed, where the bones are bare, the bear is warm and I'm warmed to the bone.

North is available from Stick Enterprises and CD Baby.

Greazy 2002 CD $12.
Gila Records, London

Taken from a review by Andy Long at globalbass.com

Jim told me that he was going for a 'trio' feel with this album and, through careful selection of musicians for each track, he has achieved that feel and built on it with the addition of some keyboards. Overall the sound is not too busy and not so flashy as to be distracting. 'Greazy' kicks straight into the smooth jazz flavour of 'Surf & Turf', a gorgeous groove that sets the tone beautifully for the whole album. This opener features Doug Melbourne's Hammond B3 and vocals by Marie Claire Dubaldo. Vocals, but no lyrics that is. 'Greazy' treats the human voice as a musical instrument and the tracks are more concerned with the sound of the individual vocalists than with lyrics. There is just one song on the album that has any lyrics, the final track 'Still Free', featuring the legendary John Martyn. John also popped in for a bit of free vocalisation on 'Peggy'. Jim is considered to be one of the finest exponents of the Chapman Stick and the sound he gets from his twelve-string model is certainly an inspiration to both students (like me) and masters of the instrument. The bass side has a crisp, bright tone which punches it's way neatly through and complements the crystal clarity of the melody side. 'Coffee Break' kicks off with a melancholy descending bass line, supported by chords in the melody side and then Jim switches it around and plays bass roots underneath that original line. At least I think that's how he does it? Jim can always find umpteen ways to play a line, all equally effective and impressive. Marie is back in the vocal booth for 'Simpatico'. She, Jim and the Stick all take the lead line together and the sound they create together is uniquely delightful. I could go on, each track has it's own appeal and, for me at least, there were no fillers. With 'Greazy' Jim Lampi has realised his finest work to date, a splendid album that I hope will bring him to a wider audience.

Young Lions 1997 CD $12.
Iguana Records, London

In Jim's hands, The Stick takes on a unique, almost acoustic timbre akin to a guitar - and, like an acoustic guitar, Jim's Stick provides a perfect accompaniment to the rich sound and rugged quality of his voice. His crisp, clean finger tapping, along with conservative overlays of his own synth and saxophone work, backing rhythms provided by percussionist Gary Hammond, and the subtle playing of the occasional guest musician, all give Young Lions an intimate, yet complete and full, feel. At the forefront, Jim shows the full extent of what one musician can do - vocals, bass lines, melody, complex soloing, a full-fledged "band" unto himself.

Jim displays an expressive vocal style, which compliments his intricate playing. Occasionally written with a "man-on-the-street" observational tone coloring the lyrics, his songs prove to be intriguing not only musically, but lyrically as well.

TV Weather 1997 CD $12..
Zok Records, London Temporarily out of stock

The Stick is an acoustical instrument in Jim's hands. His technique is amazing, and his style, mostly without effects is live and soulful, a wide dynamic range at his fingertips. From the natural Stick strings he also adds layers of varied orchestral timbres as accompaniment to the entire album. There are occasional light-hearted vocals, tightly integrated live with his Stick lines. This is music for a "new age", so to speak, but with a greater passion.

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