Clovis Nicolas

(Sunnyside Records)

Clovis Nicolas, who created Autoportrait during the pandemic restrictions on public activity, takes a purist’s route to making a solo record. He simply plays his upright bass without even so much as a bow.

Strength, tone, dexterity and sensitivity to rhythmic phrasing carry the 42-minute program, which moves steadily through the bassist’s influences, starting with a nod to Bach’s cellos suites. He references bebop, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Lennie Tristano, Dave Holland and “Rhythm” changes with propulsion that sustains interest in where he’s going.

That’s essential, as his big sound is completely exposed. While he projects noble, woody resonance, with little unintended extraneous noise or clatter, it’s Nicolas’s inner drive and unusual turns that keep it compelling. Even when walking, as on “Another Rendezvous,” he makes offbeat moves that land firmly. His composition “Four Steps” is a knucklebuster. “Everything Happens To Me” could be considered a tad overwrought, but it’s been a rough year for everyone.

Hearing Nicolas alone, one may wonder how he sounds in a group. His previous albums as a leader are Freedom Suite Ensuite, a 2018 quintet release, and Nine Stories from 2014, with a sextet.

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