Bassist Hilliard Greene served as Jimmy Scott's musical director for twenty years. He has associations with Cecil Taylor, Don Pullen (as a member of Pullen's trio), Steve Swell, Barry Altschul, Dave Douglas, Charles Gayle, and others. Currently a teacher as well as player, this is at least his second album of solo bass recordings.
Despite the title, this is not a recording explicitly of spirituals. It does display Greene's technique as well as his ability to sustain solo performances. This ability is whether he is playing Arco (bowed) or pizzicato (plucked). His personality is displayed on the opening "Blues For Will" as he states the melody. It is followed by a medley of bebop themes that he fluidly segues in "Bop Trilogy." One of the more intriguing selections is "Charlie Wade," which starts with some floating playing before transitioning into "Wade in the Water."
Several tracks have Greene singing or chanting as he repeats the phrase "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" while he furiously repeats a bass riff. His melancholic Arco playing sets forth a somber mood before he shifts to playing pizzicato on "Freedom." After some dazzling plucking, he softly sings, "Freedom, and on my way home" against his atmospheric bowed bass. A medley of "Let My People Go" with "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" begins with his arco playing of the bass' lower register evoking a deep bass vocalist. His bowed bass similarly brings an interesting flavor to "Swing Low." In contrast, there is some spirited plucking for "Things My Favorite," a fascinating solo bass reworking of "My Favorite Things.
The album concludes with Greene's dynamic walking bass on a tribute to the pioneering string bassist "Wellman Braud." While one might wish to sample a few selections at a time rather than listen to this album in one sitting, Greene's firm, precise playing, and improvisations on this album are quite impressive. It is a most unusual and intriguing recording full of striking performances.
I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a video of him performing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."