"I was already aware of Sal’s remarkable talent on bass. I also got to enjoy his qualities as a human being during our conversations. But this recording session was the opportunity for me to discover the composer and exceptional leader that he is. He has his own style of writing and chose musicians capable of following his vision on these recordings. The experience was a pure joy for me. It’s one of the records I’m most proud of."
Coming from a musician like Jacques Schwartz-Bart, this sort of comment is worth its weight in peanuts. Salted, needless to say. As Jacques would say about La Rocca’s writing style, “that’s it”.
Apart from the individual qualities of the musicians that took part in the adventure, “It Could be The End” reveals more than anything else a world that is personal yet coherent and – if the word still means anything - modern. A world that is as radically jazz as it is radically far from the mainstream that Sal La Rocca was for so long a staunch, even exclusive, champion.
Only fools never change their minds and Sal La Rocca is anything but a fool. Careful in the early days not to rush through things and to start with the roots - Ray Brown, Paul Chambers – the most buccaneer of our double-bassists (or the other way round) has been on a quest that is as surprising as it is fascinating. A quest that reveals a musician that is far from his image as a bop sideman, partner of Steve Grossman, Jacques Pelzer and Bob Mover. Perhaps remembering his early days tainted with rock, for his personal projects he works with guitarists whose approach to their instrument blends rock energy and sounds with jazz improvisations (Peter Hertmans and Jacques Pirotton on the previous album “Latinea” and the young Lorenzo di Maio on this one).
The style of writing Schwartz-Bart is referring to generates a form of “fusion” that is obviously closer to Scofield or Brecker than the Californian soup, a fusion where binary and ternary rhythms kiss each other roughly on the mouth, a fusion where replacing the electric bass by a double bass radically changes the game. The leader’s profoundly jazz background (like that of Pascal Mohy or Hans Van Oosterhout) does the rest. The result: a singular album that sounds like a plural and that can be conjugated in the past, present and future; a contemporary jazz record that reads like a travel book.
At each stop, we get a song to hum and high-level soloists to follow in their harmonic and rhythmic excursions. Let’s be clear: a record signed by a bassist-leader often resembles other releases recorded by bassist-leaders, a heavy revenge on the status of accompanist; spotlight on the bassist, all the themes are for me, the first chorus and codas…This second album by La Rocca deftly avoids that trap. With the exception of “Crescent”, all the compositions are signed La Rocca but the rest is impeccably balanced and each musician comes out of the adventure with something to remember.
Could this be the end?
“No way, José”, replied the echo!
JPS, Maison du Jazz