End To End

Barre Phillips

Barre Phillips was the first musician to record an album of solo double bass, back in 1968, and he has always been an absolute master of the solo idiom.  In March 2017, Barre recorded what he says will be his last solo album, the final chapter of his “Journal Violone”: it is a beautiful and moving musical statement.  All the qualities we associate with Barre’s playing are here in abundance – questing adventurousness, melodic invention, textural richness, developmental logic, and deep soulfulness.    End to End was recorded at Studios-La-Buissonne in the south of France, and produced by Manfred Eicher.   It is issued in both CD and LP formats.
Barre Philips war der erste, der dem Solo-Kontrabass ein ganzes Album widmete, damals, 1968 – und er ist stets ein unangefochtener Meister des solistischen Spiels geblieben. Im März 2017 nahm Barre sein, wie er sagte, letztes Soloalbum auf, das letzte Kapitel seiner „Journal Violone”: es ist ein bewegendes musikalisches Statement. All die Qualitäten, die wir mit Barres Spiel in Verbindung bringen, sind hier im Überfluss vorhanden – sein forschender Wagemut und seine melodische Kreativität, der strukturelle Reichtum, eine sich fortspinnende Logik, die tiefe Empfindungskraft. End to End wurde in den Studios-La-Buissonne im Süden Frankreichs aufgezeichnet und von Manfred Eicher produziert. Es erscheint sowohl auf CD als auch auf Vinyl.     
Featured Artists Recorded

March 2017, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines

Original Release Date


  • 1Quest - Part 1
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 2Quest - Part 2
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 3Quest - Part 3
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 4Quest - Part 4
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 5Quest - Part 5
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 6Inner Door - Part 1
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 7Inner Door - Part 2
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 8Inner Door - Part 3
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 9Inner Door - Part 4
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 10Outer Window - Part 1
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 11Outer Window - Part 2
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 12Outer Window - Part 3
    (Barre Phillips)
  • 13Outer Window - Part 4
    (Barre Phillips)
Any listener with the patience for these pieces to unfold and allow themselves to be transported by the power of a single performer’s ability to entertain will find new worlds to explore on subsequent listens.
Ed Enright, Downbeat (Editor’s pick)
Mit den letzten Seiten eines Tagebuchs vergleicht der heute 83-jährige Barre Phillips sein Album ‚End to End‘. Dem Philosophen am Kontrabaß verdanken wir mit ‚Journal Violone‘ von 1968 das erste Baßsolo-Album der Jazz-Historie. Jetzt hat der gebürtige Kalifornier sein offiziell letztes Solowerk in seiner langjährigen Wahlheimat Südfrankreich eingespielt. Es wurde in dreizehn Kapiteln, deren fünf Kernstücke einen erstaunlichen Songcharakter enthüllen, ein bewegendes Zeugnis der lebenslangen beharrlichen Suche nach dem so noch nie Gehörten. […] In den mit ‚Suche‘, ‚Innere Tür‘ und ‚Fenster nach draußen‘ überschriebenen drei Zyklen, die Stufen zur Erkenntnis gleichen, passiert durchweg Erstaunliches. Einmal mehr zeigt sich, dass die Pioniere der Jazz-Avantgarde so manchem heutigen Bildstürmer in ihrem fortschrittlichen Denken über Improvisation weit voraus sind.
Karl Lippegaus, Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Phillips’ solitary recital offers up an invaluable aperture into what a lifetime spent mastering an instrument sounds like. Whether the finished folio is actually his final formally-recorded voyage with the solo format ultimately matters not given both the copious body of work that precedes it and Phillips’ unstated, but no less discernible assurances that musical expression is still very much a part of his artistic fiber and polestar. Bass aficionados and neophytes take note: this is a set that meets exacting muster with the exemplars of the increasingly populous format of solo four-string exposition.
Derek Taylor, Dusted
There is no missing the depth and thoughtfulness of the playing, which moves between extended passages of pizzicato seeking, percussive thrumming of the strings with the bow and singing arco lines. The bassist had five planned areas of exploration in mind when the recording began, but the album also includes its fair share of spontaneous material. […] Then as now, however, the playing is singular.
Peter Margasak, Downbeat
According to the artist himself, this offering is a valedictory statement and, if so, it is a stunning way to sign off. As with a virtuoso on any instrument Phillips can catch the ear with a single note or relatively simple phrase, but it is his poise, self-possession and desire to work with space and silence, rather than rush to fill it, that makes this work so compelling. There is such clarity in both the developmental path and the ambience of each piece, possibly a fringe benefit from Phillips’ extensive work in film music […] Free of superficial pyrotechnics, this is a masterfully measured work that should appeal as much to lovers of song as to students of sound.
Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
Across 13 concise unaccompanied tracks, Phillips explores a striking array of textures — ghostly bowed lines that can sound almost flutelike, percussive tapping of the strings, abstract melodies that unfold leisurely — all captured with disarming intimacy. Phillips says ‘End to End’ is his final solo album; if so, he couldn’t have hoped for a purer distillation of his genre-transcending art.
Hank Shteamer, Rolling Stone
The new album is gorgeous. Beautifully recorded, Phillips’ sense of form, sublime tone and harmonic imagination take us on a gradually unfolding journey. This is mostly freely improvised music – Phillips mentions in the liner notes that he had ‘five areas of prepared material, five ‘songs’ I wanted to explore’ - but tends to a very tonal and compositional approach. […] Most pieces explore one sound area patiently for the duration of the track. The pieces are fairly short for freely improvised music, mostly under 3 minutes with the longest just over 6. The overall impact is a meditative, entrancing experience – a fully mature artistic statement from a musician who has reached the summing up of his solo development. I’m reminded of a chronological retrospective of Joan Miro at the Tate a few years ago – the first room of the exhibition had paintings rammed full of exhilarating detail. By the final room, the paintings were washes of colour with simple lines, yet the same emotional charge and intensity were compressed into these sparse paintings. While I wouldn’t call Phillips a minimalist, there is something here of the same condensed clarity. Fifty years after inventing the genre, Phillips continues to push the solo double bass into new and beautiful territories.
Olie Brice, London Jazz News
There aren’t many solo bass albums released and there is probably a reason for that. But when the artist releasing one is acclaimed improviser Barre Phillips, it’s wonderful. Over the course of one five section piece (‘Quest’) and two four part solos (‘Inner Door’, ‘Outer Window’), he explores the huge range and emotional scope of his instrument and its both surprising and powerful to hear all the ways four strings and a big, wide resonant body can be used to make sound.
Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Sun
Legendary double bassist and improviser Barre Phillips writes what is billed as the final chapter in his storied history of solo bass recordings on the aptly titled ‘End To End’. He recorded what is generally regarded as the first solo double bass album in 1968 with ‘Journal Violone (Opus One)’ […] If this really is his last solo double bass statement, Phillips has ended on a high note, in full possession of his powers as player and improviser. ‘End To End’ is a stunning exemplar of solo double bass performance—from the creator of the form, and still the grand master of it.
Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz
Grandios aufgenommen von Gérard de Haro im von Phillips’ Domizil nur zwei Stunden entfernten Studio Buissonne, strahlen die 13, von Manfred Eicher zu drei Themenkreisen sequentierten Tracks in subtil-reifer Schönheit. Wobei sich die filigrane Auslotung vorbereiteten Materials mit in situ zelebrierten Improvisationen unmerklich verwebt. Was auch spieltechnisch faszinierend ist, weil Barre Phillips höchst variabel nuancierte Klangfarben erfindet, deren Intensität unvergleichlich ist.
Sven Thielmann, Stereo
The album is divided up into a series of three lengthy pieces, and, from a purely technical perspective, is fascinating to hear in that the high-pitched harmonies contrast markedly with the lower registers, and part of the skill that Phillips possesses is to make that transition appear seamless. Although the material is prepared, Barre Phillips manages to dissect the contents with a distinctive improvised feel and explore them within the setting of a studio, thus offering more of a live mood to proceedings. Some of the parts have an early music feel and there is a strong influence of J.S Bach, while both Corelli and Villa-Lobos are present in his compositions. On part two of, ‘Quest’, for example, the spirit of Bach permeates the music and that is even more pronounced on part five where Bach’s cello suite immediately springs to mind, but not in any derivative sense. With both the extensive and exemplary sleeve notes for this album, ECM is threatening to shed its usual minimalist reputation. However, in the case of Barre Phillips, that is no bad thing at all.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe
The music sounds relatively dry for the most part, with enough headroom and space to really hear the bass sing and the unhurried lines slowly decay, with harmonics ringing towards the future. Phillips’ breathing is also wonderfully present in certain moments, just above and behind the center of sound. Phillips’ strong, sonorous tones stretch forth from his fingers, reaching deep into the ether. The spartan pizzicato melody that opens ‘Quest’ is slowly repeated with subtle variations before sweeping forward into beautiful arco work that is occasionally thickened with double stops. The last three sections of ‘Quest’ are further explorations of ideas and themes hinted at in Part 1, delicate, delicious pizzicato alternating with restrained arco passages which glance backwards and forwards. ‘Inner Door’ and ‘Outer Window’ follow similar arcs. Describing any of it in detail seems like a crime against nature. This is not the music of a young man. There is an inner sense of serenity and calm that permeates throughout. The music may be un-flashy, but it’s virtuosic in its ability to convey complex ideas through a few, relatively simple themes. Much the way a single pizzicato strike produces a central pitch and an endless series of harmonics, so too does this music develop, as Phillips takes a central idea and runs with it.
David Menestres, Burning Ambulance
Fast wie ein Vermächtnis zu Lebzeiten mutet die Klangwelt von Barre Phillips an, hier wie in einem Brennspiegel eingefangen in drei klar gegliederten mehrteiligen Stücken (Ouest, Inner Door, Outer Window) unter dem Motto „End to End“, was so etwas signalisiert wie die künstlerische Summe eines Lebenswerkes. Das Instrument zeigt sich in seinen beiden dominanten Erscheinungsformen abwechselnd in seiner Zwiegestalt wie eine faszinierende Kippfigur. Einmal als jazzig gezupfter Korpus mit imponierenden Resonanzen, mutig ins Vierteltönige mäandernd, den Assoziationen zu indischen Saiteninstrumenten (Sitar) nicht ausweichend. Zum andern als zart-sonores Streichinstrument mit raffinierten Melismen und abenteuerlichen Flageolett-Effekten. Die zentralen musikalischen Kategorien Rhythmus und Melodie werden hier ebenso getrennt vorgeführt wie die Gegensätze Klang und Geräusch, wobei der Double Bass dann gelegentlich sich anhören kann wie ein fernes Gewitter. Der weit über 80jährige Künstler erweist sich fast in jedem Detail als ein echter Experimentator; zugleich erreicht die Besonnenheit seiner Klangforschungen und –formungen, dass so etwas wie kristalline Schönheit entsteht – reife, gültige ‚Klassizität‘. Lässt sich so vielleicht die somnambule Sicherheit definieren, mit der ein artifizielles Terrain – welcher Art auch immer -ausgemessen wird?
Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Faustkultur
As with a virtuoso on any instrument Phillips can catch the ear with a single note or relatively simple phrase, but it is his poise, self-possession and desire to work with space and silence rather than rush to fill it, that makes this work so compelling. There is such clarity in both the developmental path and the ambience of each piece, possibly a fringe benefit from Phillips’ extensive work work in film music […] Free of superficial pyrotechnics, this is a masterfully measured work that should  appeal as much to lovers of song as to students of sound.
Kevin Le Gendre, Gramophone
La musique du Barre Phillips n‘ a jamais sonné avec autant d‘ évidence et de sincérité, à la fois riche d’une maîtrise du geste d’une pureté absolue, et bouleversante de fragilité. Dans une sorte de mise à nu intégrale, le contrebassiste, notamment à l’archet, entraîne son instrument dans  des zones que seuls les plus grands au terme d’une existence vouée à la musique sont capables d‘ atteindre. Un très grand disque.
Stéphane Ollivier, Jazz Magazine
End to End is a solo bass album by one of the great pioneers of the idiom. Over the last fifty years Barre Phillips, California-born but long a resident of France, has periodically issued solo recordings, considering them the musical equivalent of diary entries (the first one, in 1968, was called Journal violone), updates on his ever-evolving relationship to his chosen instrument.  This one, he says, will be the last of his albums in this format, so it is of special interest to those who have followed the story so far and, indeed, to anyone wishing to hear a masterful improviser at work, refocussing lessons learned in the course of a long, creative life. “It’s the end of a cycle,” says Barre, now 83, of the present recording.  “Not a summing up, but the last pages of a journal that began fifty years ago.”
Recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France, End to End juxtaposes partly-composed and freely improvised pieces. “I had five areas of ‘prepared material’, five ’songs’ I wanted to explore,” says Barrre. “And the rest was approached as I approach solo performance in a concert.”  Producer Manfred Eicher sequenced the pieces into three groups or movements which Barre subsequently named “Quest”, “Inner Door”, and “Outer Window”, titles with a biographical significance: “The journey [with the bass] did become a kind of quest of self-discovery, like in the zen sense, or any other philosophical tradition sense, of finding out who you are.  In the process I was looking inward for a long, long time. It wasn’t until I was about 55 or 60 that I reached the point where I was looking outward in the playing.” Whether playing pizzicato or arco in the pieces here, Phillips impresses with his decisiveness: every note, every sound and texture in this music, feels carefully considered and has a cumulative emotional power.
Over the years ECM has documented Barre in many musical contexts, including collaborations with John Surman, Terje Rypdal, Alfred Harth, Paul Bley, Evan Parker, Joe and Mat Maneri, Robin Williamson and more.  But his first appearance on the label was the landmark recording Music from Two Basses with Dave Holland in 1971. In 1983 there was the acclaimed solo recording Call Me When You Get There, including music for Robert Frank’s films.  For a sense of how broad the solo bass and bass ensemble genre has since become, visit http://solodoublebass.blogspot.com. Before Barre’s Journal Violone there were no albums of solo bass improvising; now, they number in the hundreds. So End to End is also a timely reminder of how influential this endeavour has been, at an underground level.
The role of the bass and its emancipation as solo instrument has been a recurring theme at ECM through the decades with examples ranging from Dave Holland’s Emerald Tears, Gary Peacock’s December Poems and Miroslav Vitous’s Emergence to Eberhard Weber’s Résumé and Björn Meyer’s Provenance.  More bass music is coming in the month’s ahead with compositions by Stefano Scodanibbio played by Daniele Roccato and the Ludus Gravis Ensemble. In early 2019, ECM will issue The Gleaners, a solo bass album by Larry Grenadier.
Scenes from the recording of End to End form part of the newly completed documentary about Barre Phillips, The Workman, by Sam Harfouche. It’s the second film to be made about the bassist’s life, following on from Accompanied Barre: A Portrait of Barre Phillips, by Ariel Pintor (2002).