Holyland by Tony Senatore

A Review by Mark Rowe

Tony Senatore has spent years working as a session bassist in the New York City area, compiling a significant list of recording and playing credits. Holyland is Tony's debut solo album, it was two years in the making. There are thirteen songs on this CD, nearly an hour of music. I would call the genre jazz / rock / fusion. Six of the songs include the 12-string bass, all of them instrumentals. On each of these six songs the 12 was multi-tracked in combination with other basses, giving a thick, layered effect.

On Holyland Tony has managed to avoid a problem commonly encountered while recording the 12-string bass; that is, the 12 tends to overwhelm the guitar parts since they are operating in much of the same frequency range. Tony's solution? He simply left the guitar out of the songs that include the 12-string: The guitar just wasn't necessary! Tony does a very credible job of covering the melodies and supporting parts on bass.

The flow of Holyland is excellent, the pace is good and the tunes are diverse. Each song offers the listener something new and different. Tony's playing is understated and minimalist, by which I mean that his playing doesn't get in the way of the music. He plays what the music requires and not one note more, an approach that usually only comes with a great deal of musical experience. There are no bass "gymnastics" here. And also atypical of most "bass albums", Tony is not afraid to let the bass take on a supporting role and let the other players have their moments in the spotlight.

Without meaning to ignore half of the album, here are my impressions of the songs recording using the 12-string bass. This is a 12-string site after all!

"A Black Place" - Tony uses the 12-string bass as a chordal instrument, or "comp" bass, on this tune. Without reading the liner notes, you would never know that this song was performed using only basses and drums. A moody song, played with a lot of feeling.

"Life And Times" - The 12 helps carry the melody, something you don't hear very often, and has almost a sitar quality to it. Interesting tune.

"Holyland USA" - I can't recall ever before hearing a 12-string bass used in conjunction with a pedal steel guitar. An unusual combination to be sure, and it works. There is a haunting quality to this song, and Tony's use of the 12-string is unlike that of most other players.

"Lord Of The Subtones" - I dig this tune! Multiple bass tracks, a solid groove and a Hammond B-3, what's not to like? A very fun song.

"Shapla" - A medley of Beatles songs lasting nearly nine minutes. Once again the 12-string takes over the melodic duties, with 4-string and fretless basses providing backup. A great arrangement and a real showcase for the 12!

"A Final Song" - A heartfelt, melodic tune, just the right way to end the album.

The bottom line on Holyland - Well-crafted songs, great bass tones, well produced, solid musicianship and music that is played with reverence and feeling. Buy it!

Holyland is available at www.cdbaby.com

Be sure to check out our Interview with Tony and his bass Rig