13 September 2016

Bassists' bliss

It's a benefit for those in the know, but it's disappointing that society can so easily ignore its best. It happens in many fields, of course. Everyone knows of celebrities, but many with real expertise are known to only a clique with shared interests. So it was with Francois Rabbath when he played in a church hall in Springwood in the Blue Mountains yesterday. But it was a pleasure was to see how many in his field were there to celebrate his skills: perhaps 50% of the audience was bassists. Francois toured and performed with his son, Sylvan, on piano. Francois is the master, the bassist. Rabbath, of the Rabbath technique. He's obviously an inventive chap, open to different approaches. His method centres on an enhanced range under the hand by pivoting hand on thumb; not stretching fingers, with possible intonation problems, but pivoting while maintaining hand shape. So fewer moves, just a few positions right up the neck, faster and equally accurately intonation when well done. Certainly Francois' speed was prodigious, even if only unleashed for some quick fills. And his bowing, also blindingly fast and clear throughout. His gear is of interest, too: his instrument (the famed Quenoil), his bow, his strings, his end pin. But the essential factor is his tone and it was so glorious: rich and rounded right into his frequent high notes (he played mostly in the thumb positions). The music comprised mainly his own compositions, of a popular style with melody spelt on bass. Sylvan accompanying on piano (a good electric, Nord, but still no match for acoustic in this context; BTW, I hear Francois turned down a pickup on his bass), sometimes soloing and once dropping into electric organ sounds. Francois often accompanied with pizz behind Sylvan's solos, using a genuine jazz technique, fingers flat to strings, at the end of the fingerboard (he didn't play any classical pizz). The final tunes were Night and day then a solo with Bach Cello suite no.1 Sarabande. I loved his certain capriciousness, in the best, most explorative, most good natured way. Rabbath will play tunes dedicated to relatives and others and themes on a sinking Venice and despairs over hunting, then lighten up with a pizz Night and day and end with the deep beauty of a Bach cello suite. Music and technique is all one, applied variously but all available and blendable. It's a common theme these days in many areas, but Francois displays it with great skills and a inviting cheer. A fabulous concert by a master of the double bass and a meeting of the bass spheres.

Francois Rabbath (double bass) performed with Sylvan Rabbath (piano) for the Live in the Village concert series in Springwood, Blue Mountains, NSW.

  • Many thanks to Peter Karp of Karp Photographics for the great photo of Francois and Sylvan with the 32 double bassists in attendance at the gig. It's one to treasure. http://www.peterkarp.com.au
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