Jeremy Bass and his many talents never cease to surprise me. In his first eight-song release of the year, Winter Bare, we witnessed poetic lyrics shine with simple, mainly acoustic accompaniment and a sound that echoes ‘60s folk music.This second collection (released two months later) strikes quite a different note. New York in Spring is a collection of eight equally poetic songs, yet with Spanish inspiration and an easy listening sound.
On first listen, the aspect that most catches my ear is Bass’ talent as a classically-trained guitarist. The guitars in Winter Bare had a much more relaxed folk sound, while the guitar parts get a little more complicated on New York in Spring. Although “Firefly” maintains more of the former’s folk sound, the rest of the album does not. Bass was trained in classical and flamenco guitar, and it shows. Particularly in the guitar-only tracks “Berimbau” and “Theme from El Decamaron Negro,” Bass shows off his classically trained roots. In fact, the latter is Bass’ version of a composition for classical guitar by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. From extensive finger picking to fast-paced Bossa Nova rhythms that make you want to do the samba, Bass shows off a side of himself that was modestly veiled in Winter Bare. Bass’ classical Spanish inspiration shines bright and clear in New York in Spring.
Bass’ combination of classical guitar, piano, violin, trumpet, accordion and percussive elements come together to create an album that easily falls under easy listening. By easy listening, I am by no means saying that the sound is boring–it’s simply relaxing. Bossa Nova can often be classified under easy listening, and this album is a clear example of that happening. The guitar and piano pair up beautifully in tracks like “Prayer” and “Julia.” When other instruments such as the trumpet (“Work”) and violin (“New York in Spring”) enter into the mix, the spanish flavor of the tracks that make you want to dance gets heightened. Yet, the flawless blending of instruments and the smooth way they are played serve to mitigate the flavor, making the album an easy listening treasure.
I knew I could never review a Jeremy Bass album without commenting on his poetic lyrics. Having actually won poetry awards and scholarships, Bass’ lyrics in both Winter Bare and New York in Spring ooze with depth and beauty. The title track is a poetic ode to New York City, with lyrics like, “But how could you not ever have lived here and ever said you’d truly been alive/ In New York in Spring.” One brilliant thing Bass does in New York in Spring is pair his heavy lyrics with light-hearted instrumentation that makes you not realize the lyrics’ exploration of the darker aspects of humanity. The best example of this is “Work.”
“Work” is one of the most brilliantly written set of lyrics I have ever heard. The song starts off with exuberant trumpets and continues with rapid Bossa Nova guitar rhythms. The instrumentation maintains a very fun and fast-paced sound that makes me want to dance the samba. The fun sound of the song masks the dark commentary Bass makes through the lyrics. The lyrics tell the narrative tale of hard-working farmers and constant-working businesspeople. He also has secondary characters such as himself (“Here I sit in my usual place”) and children (“In the city children play”). Through highlighting an array of human situations, Bass is able to universally draw attention to the one thing they all have in common: work. The lyrics have a slightly sardonic tone, since you can tell that all this work isn’t necessarily leading to good things: “A man tries to make his lover stay, hey they’re working.” (I could go on exploring more themes and figurative language, but I’ll spare you.) Looking past the vibrant sound of the track, “Work” has lyrics that point out one of humanity’s darkest struggles–our desire to rest overcome by our enslavement to work.
New York in Spring is certainly an album pleasing to the ear, but unlike Winter Bare, it is not for its simplicity. Instead, New York in Spring maintains a smooth easy listening sound accomplished through a complex arrangement of instruments and Brazilian-inspired rhythms. New York in Spring shows off a classically complex side of Bass that was hiding in Winter Bare. I do not discredit Winter Bare; in fact, I admire it for its more simple folk sound and equally poetic lyrics. Yet, there is no denying that New York in Spring is where Bass lets his talent truly roam free. And for that, we must thank him. —Krisann Janowitz