"Peering Over Clouds" CD - Don Schiff

Here is an instrumental romp on the "NS/Stick" multi-purpose bass guitar by an artist otherwise known as a singer/songwriter and professional recording session bassist and Stickist. "Peering Over Clouds" is a roller-coaster ride through blazing two-handed lead solos, cracking bass lines that "speak out", intricate patterns of clean string accompaniment, and brilliant slide guitar styled highlights - all done on one tapping fretboard instrument. It's as if Jimi Hendrix picked up an eight-string, long neck guitar and was given free reign in a state-of-the art digital recording studio. 

Don the virtuoso instrumentalist collaborates with Erik Norlander, his ingenious engineer/producer friend, to create an original concept in instrumental sound pervading this album. Both share a historic sense of rock and roll pageantry which unfolds in ever shifting moods, keys, rhythms and textures. The listening experience for me was like an intense film score, where all the musicians get to play what they want, and all the musicians are Don plus the imaginative Greg Ellis on drums. 

The NS/Stick design is all about the variety of techniques you can play on it, from "Stick" styled string tapping with independent hands, to rock guitar styled tapping with interdependent hands, to all the conventional bass guitar techniques based on picking and plucking with the right hand. What I didn't realize was that an artist would come along with "bad intent", that is, to play various combinations of these techniques at the same time, delegating different techniques to each hand, then dividing each hand into two parts for yet more techniques. Don is an orchestra, and he executes it all effortlessly in live performance. He even takes it further, shifting seamlessly from one playing method to another with no abrupt changes of volume or tone in the transitions. 

The end result is a musical portrait of Don Schiff, a composer and improvisor who has at last torn down all technical barriers and can now play with his head "peering over clouds". 

All the best,

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