Back in the Briere Patch

By Steven Libowitz   |   January 23, 2020

Way back in the spring of 2016, we wrote about the upcoming release of Songs in the Key of Double Bass, an exciting album debut from local singer-songwriter Danny Briere’s new acoustic project featuring two brilliant bassists who call Santa Barbara home: the decades-long veteran James Connolly, who has had a hand in innumerable musical projects from writing scores for Montecito’s Lit Moon Project to his own Gove County String Quartet, and David Piltch, the stand-up sensation whose early career included backing up Chet Baker, Art Pepper and Mose Allison and recording and touring with Blood, Sweat & Tears, before hooking up with Bob Dylan, Elton John and, most extensively, k d lang.

The group came together when Briere, who knew both bassists socially, mentioned the idea. Each said they would be in if the other was, so before long Briere saw his fantasy of standing between the two bassists as they fleshed out his new songs come into reality.

“For about three minutes at the first rehearsal,” Briere recalled. “Then David just picked up his bass and headed over next to Jim because he wanted to him hear him better. That’s when I knew they were into this.”

The final of three warm-up gigs at Connolly’s Piano Kitchen as the album was being recorded in early 2016 was one of the standout shows of the year, with Briere, the bassists and drummer Justin Flint engaging in organic interplay that gave Briere’s emotionally evocative songs added textures and layers. One only hoped that some of that magic would show up in what was captured in the studio.

So why are we revisiting the project more than 40 months later? Because Briere is just now getting around to actually putting Songs in the Key of Double Bass out. The happy if belated event that will be marked by their quartet’s first show in years back at the Piano Kitchen, the intimate off-Haley Street space that also serves as Connolly’s workshop. As before, Briere expects several special guests, including vocalists-guitarists Jesse Rhodes, Jamey Geston, and Jenna Tico (daughter of Santa Barbara’s other bass stalwart Randy Tico), while Connolly will likely be manning piano, the theramin, banjo, and other instruments along with the double bass at the 7:30 pm show on Saturday, January 25.

Briere gave us an update of the project.

Q. Why did it take so long to get the album out?

A. The truth is I can be quite a procrastinator and with resources running tight it took me three years to follow through to bring it home. But a little bit of feedback from the guys about wondering why we’d made the record if it wasn’t coming out goes a long way. It was also always tough to get everybody in the same room at the same time again. But we got together and played about two weeks ago and it was really wonderful, just as amazing as it had been before.

Hearing the show live, it seemed very organic. Was that true in the studio, too?

Very much. I gave them a lot of leeway, and very little instruction, maybe saying something like, “Can we be a bit more string quartet-ish,” or looking for something a bit more lyrical. It was only loose artsy direction and they just went with it. I think it was a lot of fun for them.

Are you happy with how it came out?

Oh, yeah. It’s great. When you listen to the record it’s remarkable to hear how much they (Connolly and Piltch) are in sync with each other. One will go up and the other will move down so they’re not getting in each other’s way. It’s beautiful and really something to hear. I’m proud of having facilitated what happened. It’s really great playing.

You had a lot of songs that seemed very timely back in 2016. Do they still resonate?

They were very much about lost love, a subject that was raw for me then, and one I love to dive into deep and dark. But now that [beloved Santa Barbara producer] Robinson Eikenberry passed away – we were close for 22 years – my writing is more focused toward where everybody eventually goes: about mortality, the concept of not being here anymore rather than lost love. So looking at them from a distance I realize I wrote a lot about lost relationships. But I stand by them and I still like them a lot. And the guys in the band are still very much behind them, too. And we’re planning on making a second record, hopefully on a tighter schedule.


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