Don Schiff

Peering Over Clouds 2005 CD $15.

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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 each song.

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 concept.