Barre Phillips

Barre Phillips, a bassist from the United States, is part of an expatriate group of musicians who have moved to greener pastures. Phillips is a perfect example of this expression. Phillips has lived in a charming, rural area of southern France since the 1970s. He lives in an old chateau. Since 1967, he has lived in Europe. Phillips is part a more exclusive group of musicians who are able to comfortably fit into free jazz in the 1960s and the European free improvisation scene that developed over the next decade. Phillips was born in San Francisco, California in 1934. He became a professional musician when he moved to New York in 1962. Phillips was adamant that the West Coast wasn’t in a good position to play avant-garde jazz. He would later be surprised, decades later, when he returned to the West Coast and found so many open-minded, adventurous players. One of the best of his most recent collaborations with West Coast players is the Nine Winds album Trignition, in which he is joined by fellow bass virtuoso Bertram Turetzky and multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia. As the 1960s were a time when jazz was in its infancy, his move to New York brought about almost immediate results. In this period, he had played a variety of jazz styles. Phillips worked alongside Don Ellis, a pretentious and demanding trumpeter who used to lecture his audience on the complexity of his time signatures while Phillips was responsible for maintaining these shaky tempos. Phillips was discovered by the free jazz audience at Newport on the New Thing live set. He was part of the ensemble of Archie Shepp and established himself as one the many expressive bassists from Caucasian descent who would be honored in the new black music scene. Phillips also recorded and performed with Bobby Hutcherson (great vibraphonist), Attilla Zoller (German guitarist) and Marion Brown (introspective free-jazz acolyte). Phillips flew to London in 1967. However, the trip was not intended to leave New York’s scene. He was welcomed by the British improvising community and formed a band called the Trio. It featured Phillips and John Surman, a saxophonist, and Stu Martin, a drummer, another expatriate. Phillips was able to make friendly contacts with some of the “pure” British free-improvisers such as Trevor Watts and Trevor Watts. But Surman’s relationship was more in line with his past, since the saxophonist was more from the jazz tradition. Phillips started focusing on his solo performances after the Trio performed more than 400 concerts. Phillips continued to focus on solo recordings, landing a contract at ECM records. This move may have irritated some listeners, who found his unique style and tone greatly affected by the label’s reverb-soaking techniques and other production methods. He remained with ECM records for many decades. His output includes a duet recording featuring bassist Dave Holland, and a trio collaboration between Evan Parker and Paul Bley. He was able to return to America for a rare treat, thanks to his collaborations with Joe Maneri. This tour was in support of Tales of Rohnlief 2000 ECM. Phillips is also president-elect of International Society of Bassists. Allmusic

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