San Francisco's white bassist Michael Formanek (1958) debuted with the creative watercolors of
Wide Open Spaces (january 1990), featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, violinist Mark Feldman, guitarist Wayne Krantz and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.
Longer compositions such as Dominoes gave Extended Animation (november 1991), with Tim Berne replacing Osby, a completely different feeling, almost like a philosophical version of the previous album's impressionism.
The progression towards a more pensive and plaintive style continued on
Low Profile (october 1993), for a septet including Berne, trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist and clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, trombone, piano and drums,
that included the 12-minute Great Plains,
and reached a peak with the 12-minute Thick Skin/ Dangerous Crustaceans on Nature of the Beast (april 1996), in a quartet with trumpeter Douglas, trombonist Steve Swell and drummer Jim Black, recorded while Formanek was a member of Tim Berne's Bloodcount.
These albums had rarely been showcases for his technique, but the
solo-bass tour de force of Am I Bothering You (december 1997)
made amend, offering a
dazzling catalogue of bass inventions.
The Rub And Spare Change (june 2009) documents a
quartet with Tim Berne on alto sax, Craig Taborn on
piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The same quartet recorded
Small Places (december 2011).
Thumbscrew (Cuneiform, 2014) was a collaboration among guitarist
Mary Halvorson, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek.
Michael Formanek's big band Ensemble Kolossus was conducted by Mark Helias on The Distance (december 2014):
Loren Stillman (alto sax), Oscar Noriega
(alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet),
Brian Settles (tenor sax, flute), Tim Berne (baritone sax), Dave Ballou,
Ralph Alessi, Jonathan Finlayson (trumpets), Kirk Knuffke (cornet),
Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, Ben Gerstein (Trombones), Jeff Nelson (bass
trombone, contrabass trombone), Patricia Brennan (Marimba), Mary
Halvorson (Guitar), Kris Davis (Piano), and Tomas Fujiwara (Drums), in
Formanek on bass.
Formanek played bass on pianist Angelica Sanchez's Float The Edge (july 2016) with drummer Tyshawn Sorey.
The Elusion Quartet of Time Like This (february 2018) featured Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano saxes), Kris Davis (piano) and Ches Smith (drums, vibraphone, Haitian tanbou).
Michael Formanek, Tim Berne and Mary Halvorson formed the Very Practical Trio first documented on Even Better (february 2019).
Imperfect Measures (september 2017) is a solo double bass album.
Dyads (december 2019) documents a collaboration with
18-year-old son Peter on tenor sax and clarinet.
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