Although very few of us will ever have top session musicians playing our music, sample libraries at least make it possible to create music using elements of their artistry. Indeed, having already successfully included some of Terry Bozzio's drum loops in a track of mine, I was very keen to get hold of Danny Thompson's bass licks, to see what they had to offer.
This collection was recorded using Danny's 1865 Gand bass, affectionately named Victoria. Apparently, its output was captured with a Neumann U47 and KM84, one of which was fed through a Focusrite A430, the other an RCA preamp. A Neve 33609 was used for compression and a 1073 for EQ. For good measure, a pickup feed was mixed in as well.
The resulting samples are fairly dry, exhibiting no appreciable room ambience. On some loops, metronome spill is clearly audible, probably issuing from Danny's headphones, but it is easily low enough to vanish in a mix.
The lower frequencies of the bass appear to have been carefully attenuated during production, such that the remaining spectrum is what's most useful for general mix purposes. Some degree of compression — fairly subtle, judging by the waveforms — has been used to control swells, bring up decaying notes and emphasise expression.
The content isn't designed to be used like a construction kit and is predominantly organised according to the loops' tempos. Loops aside, a Slides and FX folder provides stand-alone flurries, slides and buzzy notes, which have no specific tempo and are potentially useful for one-off sound effects, intros, endings or links. For those interested in sequencing, a Multi and Patches folder houses velocity-layered samples and the relevant files for mapping them across soft sampler keyboards.
Aside from tempo options, which range from 70 to 160 bpm, there is much variety in the finger work, from fast staccato to slow legato. These sometimes incorporate glissando and a fair amount of subtle string bending and fleeting vibrato. Overall, the material evokes thoughts of cinematic jazz scores of the '60s and '70s, although there are a fair number of bluesy progressions that could be used for classic rock material.
Hearing some of the loops cycling around, I was also reminded of New Forms, the debut album of Roni Size's Reprazent, which won the Mercury Music Prize in 1997. It used sampled double-bass loops to great effect on tracks like 'Brown Paper Bag', and it is easy to imagine any one of Danny's loops being used in a very similar fashion.
Danny's work is impressively detailed, but the collection would benefit from having just a few more basic loop options that remain relatively free from embellishments. Sample collections have to feature virtuoso performances but, as I've experienced when using drum loops, the more elaborate the playing, the harder it is to match with pre-existing compositions.
Danny's collection is, without doubt, a very useful composer resource and will be the closest many of us ever get to having a player of his stature performing our compositions. Tom Flint
£34.95 including VAT.