Paul Bryan Explores Space with “Western Electric”

Paul Bryan: Western ElectricGrammy-winning bassist Paul Bryan has a wide musical palette that allows him to play in just about any situation. Throughout his career, he has worked with a who’s who of artists: Aimee Mann, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Susan Tedeschi, Sam Philips, Mavis Staples, Jeff Parker and the New Breed, and many more.

Now he’s expanded his palette even further with a new solo album called Western Electric, which a press release calls “an offbeat experiment that is as funky and infectious as it is eccentric and hybridized.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

The album is a sonic exploration influenced in part by a pair of classic jazz albums: Percussion and Bass by Papa Jo Jones and Milton, as well as Way Out West by Sonny Rollins, which features Ray Brown on bass. Each features a chordless instrumentation, leading to some interesting textures and space. As such, Bryan enlisted drummer Jay Bellerose and saxophonist Josh Johnson for the effort, and although Western Electric sounds nothing like those albums, it does have the openness and playfulness of their spirit.

“Usually I write on piano, but this time I just gave myself this weird little palette,” Bryan explains. “I decided I was going to write music with this little two-octave keyboard and see what happens, and then open it up with Josh and Jay.”

Bryan pays homage to the bass and bass players with several tracks on the album. “Bon Jemmott” is named for the legendary session bassist Jerry Jemmott, whose funky R&B lines graced mega-hits like “Think” by Aretha Franklin and “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King.

“Family Man” is a tribute to the late reggae master Aston “Family Man” Barrett. “I owe my existence to Family Man and a couple of other bass players,” Bryan says. “All of Bob Marley’s music comes down to a duet between Bob Marley and Family Man – there’s no other melodic information. So I was exploring that concept of a bass line that almost, but not quite, functions as the melody.”

Western Electric is out now digitally via Bandcamp and Apple Music.

Western Electric Track List:

  1. Ethervane
  2. Family Man
  3. Jazz Bass
  4. Berlin
  5. Pascoal’s Wager
  6. Workingthankyousolid!
  7. Mise En Abyme
  8. Bon Jemmott
  9. Respira Lento
  10. August and the Colonel
  11. Black Rook

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