The Squid's Ear Magazine

Smith, Damon

Winter Solos for Robert Ryman [CASSETTE]

Smith, Damon : Winter Solos for Robert Ryman [CASSETTE] (Balance Point Acoustics)

Reflecting on the passing of artist and musician Robert Ryman, double bassist Damon Smith dedicated this concert of outstanding playing, technique and momentum at Cafe Fixe in Brookline, MA to Ryman, as Smith sought to present a definitive solo concert as an overview of his own work, ably realizing Ryman's concept of finding all the things you can do with your instrument.

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product information:

Label: Balance Point Acoustics
Catalog ID: BPA -7
Squidco Product Code: 27841

Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: USA
Packaging: Cassette
Recorded live at Cafe Fixe, in Brookline, Massachusetts, on February 12th, 2019 by Jerry MacDonald.


Damon Smith-double bass

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"It was snowing heavily, and Robert Ryman had just passed. I had a nice drive to the venue, arrived early, had a fantastic espresso, and read a small catalogue on Ryman, aptly titled Variations + Improvisations. Ryman once said about his music, "I wanted to compose: to compose with my instrument, to find all the things you can do with the instrument. In that respect it's related to painting." He went on to leave music and find out what could be done with the color white and the square format. I want to find out what can be done with the double bass.

I approached this concert with the idea to work towards a solo recording. I wanted something definitive, an overview of my work as it stands. I think it captured that. A solo is something I've put off for years, something that would always "be better later." I love the idea of solo bass. I've played many concerts, I own most available solo bass recordings and I love doing it. It has always been easier to make albums with others. The music recorded at this concert is a good place to start.

The cafe sounds are as much a part of improvised music as pure silence, so no effort was made to remove them."-Damon Smith, April, 2019

"Robert Ryman (May 30, 1930 - February 8, 2019) was an American painter identified with the movements of monochrome painting, minimalism, and conceptual art. He was best known for abstract, white-on-white paintings. He lived and worked in New York City.

Ryman was born in Nashville, Tennessee. After studying at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cookeville, between 1948 and 1949, and at the George Peabody College for Teachers between 1949 and 1950, Ryman enlisted in the United States army reserve corps and was assigned to an army reserve band during the Korean War. Ryman moved to New York City in 1953, intending to become a professional jazz saxophonist. He had lessons with pianist Lennie Tristano, which later informed his painting. Ryman soon took a day job at the Museum of Modern Art as a security guard to make ends meet, and met the artists Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin, who were co-workers with him at MoMA. Immediately after quitting his job at MoMA, Ryman spent the next year working in the art division of the New York Public Library. He also met artist Roy Lichtenstein during this period of the 1950s.

Captivated by the newly acquired abstract expressionist works of Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, Ryman became curious about the act of painting. From 1953 to 1960, he worked at the MoMA as a guard in order to be close to painting. He purchased some art supplies at local store and began experimenting in his apartment in 1955. That year, Ryman finished what he considered to be his earliest professional work, a largely monochrome painting titled Untitled (Orange Painting) (1955-59).

Ryman had a close relationship with the late conservator Orrin Riley, who would frequently give him advice on archival materials, many times testing the acidity of media the artist was interested in using. He was interviewed by the television writer and producer Barbaralee Diamonstein twice, once for the book and video production Inside New York's Art World in 1979 and again for Inside the Art World in 1993.

In 1961 the artist married art historian Lucy Lippard. They had a son together, Ethan Ryman, in 1964, who was first a sound engineer and recently began making art. The marriage ended in divorce. He later married artist Merrill Wagner. Robert Ryman's sons from his second marriage, Cordy Ryman and Will Ryman, are also artists and currently work in New York City.

Ryman died on February 8, 2019, at the age of 88."-Wikipedia

Artist Biographies

"Damon Smith studied double bass with Lisle Ellis and has had lessons with Bertram Turezky, Joëlle Leandré, John Lindberg, Mark Dresser and others. Damon's explorations into the sonic palette of the double bass have resulted in a personal, flexible improvisational language based in the American jazz avant-garde movement and European non-idiomatic free improvisation. Visual art, film and dance heavily influence his music, as evidenced by his CAMH performance of Ben Patterson's Variations for Double Bass, collaborations with director Werner Herzog on soundtracks for Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, and an early performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Damon has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including: Cecil Taylor, Marshall Allen (of Sun Ra's Arkestra), Henry Kaiser, Roscoe Mitchell, Michael Pisaro, Wadada Leo Smith, Marco Eneidi, Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter Brötzmann and Peter Kowald. After many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and five great years in Houston, Texas working regularly with Alvin Fielder, Sandy Ewen, David Dove & Chris Cogburn, Damon will move to the Boston area in the fall of 2016. Damon has run Balance Point Acoustics record label since 2001, releasing music focusing on transatlantic collaborations between US and European musicians."

-Balance Point Acoustic Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:


1. Suface Veil 05:42

2. Reference 11:09


1. Cord 08:28

2. Attendant 04:15

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Stringed Instruments
Solo Artist Recordings
Boston Area Improvisers
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Stringed Instruments
Solo Artist Recordings
Boston Area Improvisers
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

Search for other titles on the label:
Balance Point Acoustics.

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