Here is an instrumental romp on the "NS/Stick" multi-purpose bass
guitar by an artist otherwise known as a singer/songwriter and
professional recording session bassist and Stickist. "Peering Over
Clouds" is a roller-coaster ride through blazing two-handed lead
solos, cracking bass lines that "speak out", intricate patterns of
clean string accompaniment, and brilliant slide guitar styled
highlights - all done on one tapping fretboard instrument. It's as
if Jimi Hendrix picked up an eight-string, long neck guitar and was
given free reign in a state-of-the art digital recording studio.
Don the virtuoso instrumentalist collaborates with Erik Norlander,
his ingenious engineer/producer friend, to create an original concept
in instrumental sound pervading this album. Both share a historic
sense of rock and roll pageantry which unfolds in ever shifting
moods, keys, rhythms and textures. The listening experience for me
was like an intense film score, where all the musicians get to play
what they want, and all the musicians are Don plus the imaginative
Greg Ellis on drums.
The NS/Stick design is all about the variety of techniques you can
play on it, from "Stick" styled string tapping with independent
hands, to rock guitar styled tapping with interdependent hands, to
all the conventional bass guitar techniques based on picking and
plucking with the right hand. What I didn't realize was that an
artist would come along with "bad intent", that is, to play various
combinations of these techniques at the same time, delegating
different techniques to each hand, then dividing each hand into two
parts for yet more techniques. Don is an orchestra, and he executes
it all effortlessly in live performance. He even takes it further,
shifting seamlessly from one playing method to another with no abrupt
changes of volume or tone in the transitions.
The end result is a musical portrait of Don Schiff, a composer and
improvisor who has at last torn down all technical barriers and can
now play with his head "peering over clouds".
All the best,
Wait by the River 2003 CD $15.
Don Shiff, the pioneer of the NS/Stick, brings us another CD of original
music in "Wait by the River". As opposed to a "solo" CD per se, Don focuses
on strong song writing and records all of the tunes playing all of the parts
himself (with the exception of some drumming by Bob Doo on tracks #4 and #7).
Mostly, the instrumentation is NS/Stick but Don does fill in some of the
gaps with keyboards and drum loops.
In the end, "Wait by the River" is a collection of beautiful songs all
laced with Schiff's soulful lyrics. In each tune, his singing is accompanied
by his trademarked NS/Stick textures. The title track starts right off with
a harmonized vocal line accompanied by a lilting passage picked on the melody
strings of his NS. From the introduction, Don's fat and lush bass lines come
in to fill in the rest of the sonic mix. When track #3 "Letters in the Sand"
starts, Don takes the bass work up a notch and delivers some of the funky bass
grooves that he's become known for. He doesn't stop there though. Just when
you think you've got this record figured out, Don launches a full scale sonic
assault with "Louienstein", a heavy industrial tune with German lyrics (or so
he says). As the story goes, "Louienstein" was inspired by Don's son who had
asked him to write something similar to one of his favorite bands. After
delivering the music tracks, Don decided to take it a step further and add
the German lyrics to give it an edge. Since Don doesn't speak German, he
simply made up the words. Track #7 "With Life in Hand" is the track where Don
stops to show us all "what this thing will do". An instrumental NS/Stick solo
recording with drum backing, this is where Don struts his stuff and rips out
lines that could only be played on an NS/Stick mixing intricate tapping and
picking using the full range of the instrument. To wrap it all up, the final
track "Always Lovin' You" rings of a rock anthem and turns into a fitting
ending for a world class recording.
Timeless 1999 CD $15.
Don has a fine sense of rock and roll history. His composition, vocal
phrasing and instrumental arrangements remind one of such disparate
artists as Springsteen, Lauper, Bowie, Lennon and Dylan - all at once.
His Grand Stick and NS/Stick work is so well arranged for each song.
He gets what you mught call a "speaking" bass sound from the NS/Stick.
His melodic and chordal arrangements on Grand Stick are unique for
The beauty is, even though his live performance is very much evident
on this first Don Schiff album, there is something different. There is
a precision, a pendulum swing, in every groove and pocket on this
album, a combination of Greg Ellis' percussion, Don's locked in tapping
bass riffs, and Raj Naik's engineering techniques and production