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New York bassist Brandon Lopez brings a bruising physicality to his improvisational playing

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Young bassist Brandon Lopez has become a force on New York’s improvised-music scene these past few years, in large part due to his formidable power. The recent self-released solo album Smoked Sunshine Vitriol Spits is a testament to his strength—his oversize instrument can sound like a toy in his hands, and the way he wields and manhandles it in a live setting (e.g., his performance here last fall as a member of Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones) makes it look like one too. Still, it’s what Lopez does with his power that matters. On opener “Cerveza Stallone” his plucked notes blur the line between harmony and percussion; he shadows the serene melody—as well as the frequent explosive eruptions he drops with sudden tangles of thwacked notes—with a wordless chant that lingers in the distant background, telegraphing the lines in his head as his fingers sculpt them. The proceedings are no less visceral when Lopez picks up his bow. On “America dis-Splenda” he abrades the strings with furious scrapes to produce both floor-rumbling low tones and cranium-piercing high notes, all marbled with a virtual spectrum of timbral variety. There’s no question that the bulldozer energy of William Parker is a major influence on Lopez, but he’s intent on marking out his own turf by bringing a bruising physicality and biting tactility to his playing. The rapid-fire harmonic effects he generates on “Kevin Reilly Films,” for example, suggest a durable fabric getting lashed by intense wind gusts as opposed to a double bass getting a workout. He’ll perform solo and then play a trio set with guitarist Andrew Clinkman and drummer Ryan Packard.   v

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