AMN Reviews: John Teske – Wheel

John Teske: Wheel [self-released]

John Teske is a Seattle-based composer and instrumentalist. His most recent release, Wheel, features multi-faceted compositions for the double bass alone and accompanied by one other instrument.

The suite Five Pieces for Double Bass, performed by the composer, opens the release and provides it with its center of gravity. Arranged as five separate tracks, the suite brings out different sides of the instrument’s character. It begins with sustained notes drawn from the bass’s middle register, colored with microtonal variations. Continuing in the middle range, the sound moves to a chromatic pizzicato that opens out to a lyrical arco tinged with a slight melancholy. The suite ends with a kind of essay on the lowest string, an E string detuned to D, played with different bow articulations giving way to harmonics. The harmonics create a microtonal effect, in a sense bringing the suite back around to the beginning.

The remaining tracks include one more piece for solo double bass followed by duo settings with cello, clarinet and another double bass. The duet for clarinet and bass employs percussive and extended techniques for both instruments, while Phrala, for two basses, is a pulsing piece whose minor thirds and seconds gives it a vaguely Middle Eastern flavor.

All in all a nice take on contemporary chamber music.