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Bassist Dominic Duval makes each musical gesture count, whether he's fleshing out the manic chord clusters of pioneering pianist Cecil Taylor or plucking perfect-pitch harmony with new-school guitarist Hans Tammen. “My ears won't allow me to play something that's not in tune with what's going on,” says the New York native. However, he admits, “My ears take me only so far,” and he suggests it is “soul power” that enables him to fit into situations that would foil even the heartiest of jazz improvisers. “The music that you make is not isolated from the life you lead,” he says.

After growing up in the drug-plagued '60s, Duval dropped out of the jazz scene by decade's end, in a move he now calls “self-exile for self-preservation.” For the next quarter-century he privately honed his skills as a virtuosic practitioner of nearly every musical idiom, from classical to folk. When he re-emerged a few years back, he found that his discipline had paid off: Suddenly Duval was in demand as one of the leading bassists and bandleaders of the “new jazz” renaissance. He has since appeared on dozens of albums for respected indie labels like Leo and CIMP. The comeback isn't surprising: Beyond his second-to-none technical skills, Duval plays with a strong sense of thematic development, an emotional nuance, and surprising twists and turns — key ingredients for world-class musicmaking. As Duval explains it, “I don't play music; I only live through my instrument.”

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