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Review: John D’Ercole

Review by Matt O’Donnell
Managing Editor

John D’Ercole, a young player out of Connecticut, recently assembled and released his first self-titled album, which is a collection of classical music arranged for solos bass. I’ll stop you right away if your brain writes it off in advance as being just another guy playing Bach cello suites in the wrong octave and with whatever stylistic points they so choose.

The most important thing about this record is that all of these pieces are performed as they would be on their intended instruments, but just happen to be done on the 6-string electric bass. All the intended tempos, dynamics, and articulations are pretty spot on to the score instructions (I know because I listened to John’s playing while reading along with the scores). This immediately sets him apart from the classical recording pack. John’s Fodera Monarch 6 (equipped with Mike Pope preamp) is more than up to the task of accommodating such difficult material. Another testament to how special of an instrument line Fodera makes, for sure.

I alluded to the fact earlier that D’Ercole isn’t discriminatory in his selection of pieces in terms of instrument, either. He tears through works for clavier like Schubert’s “Ave Maria”, all parts accounted for, just as easily as he manages the single stave works like J.S. Bach’s “Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 – I. Prelude”, and that’s truly hard to do. I mean, we all know the Stu Hamm tapping version of “Moonlight Sonata”, but everything that’s gimmick and kitsch is shed in John’s version, which is clean and crisp, with every bit of sustain that Beethoven calls for in his manuscript.

Overall, the pieces that stand out most to me are the two etudes included by Matteo Carcassi. These pieces are closest to the bass, written for classical guitar. However, there’s a degree of difficulty even for the guitar that D’Ercole nails on the bass. In addition, these are etudes that sound like “real” compositions, with beautiful harmonic language and pleasant melodies. Add these in with the aforementioned tunes and other standards like “Fur Elise” and “Greensleeves”, and this record fits in just right in a CD changer with performance works by the greats.

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