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Jump Head

ABRAHAM LABORIEL EL MAESTRO!

LEE ROCKER MICHAEL LE AGUE NIKKI MONNINGER JACK CASADY SCOT T SHRINER NICOLE ROW ANTHONY JACKSON & FODERA b a s s m a g a z i n e . c o m

; ISSUE 3 ; BASS

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Jump Head

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©2019 Fender Musicial Instruments Corporation. FENDER, FENDER in script, PRECISION BASS, and the distinctive headstock commonly found on Fender Guitars and Basses are registered trademarks of FMIC. Yosemite is a trademark of FMIC. All rights reserved.


Contents Gear Reviews

Features

96. MXR M282 Dyna Comp Bass Compressor By Rod Taylor

98. Strandberg Boden Prog 5-string By Jonathan Herrera

102. Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro HA-2 By Jon D’Auria

10. Nicole Row

From Miley Cyrus to Panic! At The Disco, Nicole Row takes on every big gig with a sense of poise and rationality. By Jon D’Auria

18. Bakithi’s African Bass

In the first installment of our new series, South African bass icon Bakithi Kumalo sits down with Cameroonian phenom Armand Sabal-Lecco. By Chris Jisi

24. Rev Jones

Hard-rocking Rev Jones is known for his work with Michael Schenker and Steelheart, but has finally debuted a solo album of his own. By Freddy Villano

28. Nikki Monninger

From her love of Gibson Thunderbirds to Silversun Pickups’ triumphant new album, Nikki Monninger dishes on all things bass. By Jon D’Auria

36. Scott Shriner

Delivering two new records at once, Weezer has kept good on their promise of dropping an album a year, while bassist Scott Shriner has kept good on delivering only the finest tone. By Jon D’Auria

42. Michael League

League takes a break from his world travels to focus on his musical exploration on Snarky Puppy’s latest album, Immigrance. By Chris Jisi

52. Abraham Laboriel

In the first of a two-part series, we celebrate the life and career of one of the most recorded and influential bassists of all time. By E. E. Bradman

80. Lee Rocker

Rockabilly icons Stray Cats celebrate 40 years of jumping and jiving with a new album, as Lee Rocker reflects on a lifetime of slapping the double bass. By Chris Jisi

86. Jack Casady

The legendary player behind Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna revisits his illustrious career on his 75th birthday. By Jim Roberts

Columns 104. Jazz Concepts

Make The Drummer Sound Good! By John Goldsby

110. Beginner Bass Base

Note Names Part 2: Descending Groove By Patrick Pfeiffer

113. The Inquirer

Life Lessons From Steve By Jonathan Herrera

114. Partners

Anthony Jackson & Fodera Guitars By Jim Roberts

Departments 4. From the Editor 6. 10 Questions With Anna Sentina 8. Spins, Streams & Downloads

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From the Editor Honest Abe

I

Bass Family,

t’s no secret that the music world is full of remarkable, eccentric characters with bold personalities. That tends to come with the territory of being an artist. But sometimes you come across unique souls who are so comfortable in their own bones that the immense levels of energy and good vibes they naturally emit seems to rub off on you from just being around them. Players like Flea and Bootsy Collins come to mind — but I’ve never encountered a presence like Abraham Laboriel. Every time that I’ve been lucky enough to watch him perform, hear him speak, or even just simply sit in a room with him, I’ve genuinely felt like I was in the presence of an enlightened being who has it all figured out. We’ve had the privilege of hosting Abraham at many bass events in years past, and even more than his insane slapping, tapping, strumming, and grooving, it was the lit-

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tle moments from him that impacted us the most. From seeing him tear up while reflecting on how beautiful the key of Eb major is, to hearing one of his countless stories that are always as hilarious as they are awe-inspiring, it was all pure gold. One of my favorite stories was about when he and his drummer son Abe Jr. were taking a lunch break at a fast food joint during a full day of recording sessions. They were eating their burgers when a song came on the radio that caught Abe Sr.’s ear. It was Hanson’s “MMMBop.” Abe turned to his son and said, “This song is so damn annoying, but man, does it groove.” His son put down his food and looked him dead in the eye and said, “Dad, it grooves because that’s us playing on there.” Finally, major props go to our Editor-At-Large, E.E. Bradman, for taking on this mountain of a story. I can’t tell you the amount of work he put into this article — from going down to L.A. to hang with Abraham and his family, to making a massive Spotify playlist of his songs, to creating a chronological timeline of his life, to putting his heart and soul into every word. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. And that goes for the whole magazine front to back. We’ve learned so much from all the artists in these pages. As always, drop me a line with your thoughts and feedback at jon@bassmagazine.com, and dig in and enjoy. Cheers to the future of bass!

Jon D’Auria Editor-In-Chief


Volume 1, Issue 3 | bassmagazine.com Editor-In-Chief JON D’AURIA Senior Editor CHRIS JISI Editor-At-Large E.E. BRADMAN General Manager TIM HILL Copy Editor KARL CORYAT Art Director PAUL HAGGARD CONTRIBUTORS Ed Friedland Jim Roberts Jonathan Herrera Freddy Villano John Goldsby Rod Taylor Patrick Pfeiffer Bill Leigh Stevie Glasgow Vicky Warwick Patrick Wong FOR AD INQUIRES CONTACT:

tim@bassmagazine.com ALL OTHER INQUIRIES CONTACT:

jon@bassmagazine.com chris@bassmagazine.com elton@bassmagazine.com All Images, Articles, and Content ©2019 Bass Magazine, LLC

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COURTESY ANNA SENTINA / GRUV GEAR

10 Questions with

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Anna Sentina

What was your first bass? An Ibanez Soundgear 4-string. It was a gift from my mom. I don’t play it anymore, but the memories with that bass will always be precious to me.

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S

ince 2012, Anna Sentina has been a viral online sensation thanks to her deep playing and her serious chops. Being a classically trained pianist from age eight, Anna picked up the bass at 14 and immediately started touring with bands of all genres, including gigs with America’s Got Talent artists Emil and Dariel, along with Candle-

box’s Kevin Martin. She is a proud endorser of Kiesel basses, DR Strings, Boss, Gruv Gear, and Roland instruments. She’s been featured in Esquire and Sports Illustrated, and she’s even teamed up with Converse for its Rubber Tracks Sample Library project. Anna took a break from her busy studio, touring, and filming schedule to answer our 10 Questions.

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What music have you been listening to lately? I’m really digging the new 1975 release A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. Rüfüs Du Sol’s new album Solace has been on repeat for me since it came out last year, and the same with Mumford & Sons’ Delta. Foo Fighters and Odesza are always at the top of my Spotify queue, two of my absolute favorites.

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What’s one element of your playing that you most want to improve? When I wasn’t in the studio as much and was playing out significantly more often, I started learning how to improvise and come up with cool licks and lines on the spot. I want to get back to that place musically.

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What is the first concert you ever attended? Jon Bon Jovi, at the Staples Center. I honestly remember it like it was yesterday, even though I was super young. The venue was packed and the audience knew pretty much every lyric to every song he sang. It was epic.

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What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended? This is such a hard question for me, but I’m going to have to go with Iron Maiden at the San Manuel Amphitheater in 2010. I was in high school. It was a trek to get there, but man, was it worth it.


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If you could have lunch with any bass player today, alive or dead, who would it be? Right now it would have to be Bootsy Collins. I’ve always been a fan and admire the motivational words he extends to not just artists, but everyone. Another player I would love to have lunch with is Flea. He’s always all over the place and really seems to have the “balance is key” aspect of life down.

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If you could sub for a bass player in any band, who would it be? Tim Commerford with Rage Against The Machine! Absolutely. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands, and I would be so excited to play with them. Tim’s bass lines are epic, to say the least, and the energy of the band is insane.

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. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass? Let loose, and have fun. So simple, yet something most people seem to forget most of the time.

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.What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you during a gig? I was playing in one of my first metal bands several years ago. We were really into the entertainment/performance aspect of playing live and wore wireless systems to every show. Long story short, I ended up ripping my wireless cable out, and performed the rest of the song without bass. There were a lot of people watching. It was awkward.

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.If you weren’t a bass player, what would you be doing? I would be a veterinarian or some sort of conservation biologist. I’m actually getting my degree in molecular cell biology this year and definitely plan on doing something with it, hopefully helping some animals if I can! l

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Spins, Streams & Downloads

Esperanza Spalding 12 Little Spells [Concord] Created on a writing retreat in Italy, and recorded and initially released over 12 days on social media in 2018, Esperanza Spalding’s sixth solo album is yet another highly original work for the seemingly boundless, ever-growing artist. The dozen songs are inspired by different parts of the body “as an exploration of the healing powers of art,” and as soundscapes they range from avant-garde and art rock to contempo R&B and cascades of lush jazz harmony. The core sound from her previous record, Emily’s D+Evolution, is in place, via the kinetic drumming of Justin Tyson and the dirty/ clean electric guitar of Matthew Stevens. Presumably with the intent of having a band for the social media roll-out, Esperanza shares bass duties with Brooklyn-by-way-of-Houston doubler Burniss Travis, and she also credits Stevens and New Orleans saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin with electric bass contributions (although they aren’t identified specifically). Many of the bass highpoints sound like Spalding,

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perhaps on her custom fretless Simon Propert South Paw 5-string, such as the octave-infused ostinato on the gorgeous title track, the percolating pulse on “You Have to Dance,” the slippery, savvy accompaniment on “Dancing the Animal,” and the stretching on the Wayne Shorter-esque outro of “Ways Together.” Elsewhere, her effortless, soaring vocals and penchant for potent counterpoint between melody and bass lines make this unmistakably Esperanza, no matter the new terrain. —Chris Jisi

“Japan,” “Easy,” and the rest of the eight-track LP. A perfect album for a late-night stroll or after-party hang, Hansen understands the important role of bass in trip-hop music, and he respectfully represents it on this mellow journey. —Jon D’Auria

Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band

Tycho Weather [Ninja Tune] Multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of ambient, downtempo vibes Scott Hansen has just released his fifth studio album, Weather, under his better-known moniker Tycho. His laid-back, lo-fi-meets-hi-fi sound has reached new heights on his latest effort, and his bass work is more pronounced than it was on his previous records. Taking a more organic approach this time around, Hansen stays true to his electric bass roots and lays down tight lines on

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Antidote [Concord Jazz] Chick Corea revisits the Latin and flamenco sound of his classic sides My Spanish Heart and Touchstone with a powerful, impeccably selected eight-piece unit, anchored and accelerated by Carlitos Del Puerto and drummer (and Roy Haynes grandson) Marcus Gilmore. The title track provides a salsa-fied launch, with the crisp horns of trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, trombonist Steve Davis, and saxophonist/ flutist Jorge Pardo, the great Ruben Blades’ impassioned vocals, and Del Puerto’s bold, Baby Bass tumbao. Elsewhere, Carlitos provides conversational support on his Fodera 5 for the flamenco-intoned “Yellow Nimbus — Part 2.” A deftly re-


Jump Head

imagined “Armando’s Rhumba” finds Del Puerto comfortably in the Stanley Clarke role on acoustic bass, adding a Cuban sensibility. Finally, for the Middle-Eastern-flavored, Paco DeLucia-penned “Zyriab,” Carlitos imparts a rhythmically and tonally astute solo on upright. —Chris Jisi

The Dirty Diamond From the Stars [thedirtydiamond.com] Session ace Derek Frank stays busy thanks to his steady world tours with Gwen Stefani and Shania Twain — but when he’s back home in Los Angeles, he focuses on his own band, the Dirty Diamond. Their new album is a powerful rock exhibition that showcases each of the band members’ talents, and for Frank, that means digging into big riffs and laying down strong grooves every chance he gets. Every song features multiple standout bass moments that catch your ear with either a deep pocket breakout or a catchy run. If you’re a fan of rocking, and we know you are, dig into this album. —Jon D’Auria

Charnett Moffett

David Pastorius

Bright New Day [Motéma Music] Veteran doubler and solo artist Charnett Moffett goes all electric on his latest, uplifting effort (his 14th as frontman), plucking his fretless Moon. Joined by guitarist/vocalist Jana Herzen, violinist Scott Tixier, drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., and keyboardist Brian Jackson, Moffett handles a wide range of roles with a variety of sounds over eight tracks of his trademark sing-song meditations and hypnotic, Eastern-tinged mantras. This includes driving “Free the Slaves” with hard plucks and slaps, dropping his E string down to D for the harmonics-infused, rubato rumination “Waterfalls,” and filling the straightahead burner “Netting” with fleet-fingered melody-doubling, effects-laden solos, and fierce walking. —Chris Jisi

Radio Gold [David Pastorius] It’s hard to figure out exactly where to begin in describing the latest eclectic album from bassist David Pastorius, but David himself has no issue knowing where to begin, as the opening track “Rojas” kicks off with a musical uppercut that ignites things with a bang. Displaying all of his prowess and his love of a diversity of musical genres, Pastorius takes listeners on a voyage that explores avant-garde jazz, rock, funk, and soul. With layers of slapped, tapped, and fleet-fingered bass, the album shifts from burners like “The Chase” and “Candlebox” to laid-back tracks like “Nikoa,” “Got It Good,” and “Fake News.” —Jon D’Auria  l

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Panic! At The Disco

NICOLE ROW Don’t Panic

By Jon D’Auria | Photo courtesy of Fender

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n December 27, 2018, Panic! At The Disco’s longtime bass player, Dallon Weekes, announced he was leaving the band to pursue his own musical interests. With a pending tour on the books and a busy year ahead, Panic frontman Brandon Urie knew he had to act fast in finding his next bassist. It was around this time that Nicole Row had been playing with Miley Cyrus on a stretch of performances after gaining notoriety for her work with Fat Joe, Ty Dollar Sign, Dallas Austin, Remy Ma, and Troye Sivan. She received a call from Panic’s manager, who asked her to join. Before she knew it, she was heading over to meet the band — and her Instagram profile began blowing up with a new swarm of followers when the news broke that she landed the chair. With only two weeks to learn a diverse catalogue of music that spanned six albums over a 14-year period, Row immediately got to woodshedding in an effort to master the bass lines and vocal harmonies that she would soon be performing to big audiences all over the world. Her background in jazz and her years of playing electric, upright, and synth bass aided her efforts, and she was soon on the road and infusing her-

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COURTESY FENDER

Nicole Row

self into Panic’s bold, theatric performances. To aid her sound, Row enlisted Fender’s Custom Shop to create a 30-inch short-scale Jazz Bass 5-string that would deliver the booming tone she loved, paired with the playability of the smaller fingerboard. Thanks to her experience performing on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, Billboard Music Awards, and other marquee events and big bills, she masterfully took on the task. How did you learn Panic’s challenging catalogue so quickly? I had only a couple of weeks to learn all of the material before jumping on the tour, and I didn’t know specifically which songs we would be playing for the shows, so I sat down and started with all of the hits. I be-

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gan with the bass parts and then had to work through learning all of the vocal parts, too. I used the album recordings and went with all of the highest harmonies I could [sing], and then I threw the vocals on top of the bass parts. Panic’s music can be really tricky to match the singing with the playing at the same time. Has it always been natural for you to sing and play? I’m not going to say it was ever easy, because that would be a lie. I feel like anybody who starts to sing and play will say that it’s difficult, unless you’re someone like Larry Graham. There were no instruments in my house as a kid, so I started off singing. That was the only thing I knew to do. So thankfully I don’t have to think about how to sing


Nicole Row

when I’m playing bass. But doing both of those things at once is definitely a challenge. To make it fun for myself, I like to think that it’s like playing drums. You have to separate parts of your body and divide your mind and you have to stack the grooves. It becomes fun when you get it down. Do you feel any pressure to replicate the presence and playing of Dallon Weekes? I’ve learned that when people ask you to play with them, they want your authentic self, and the only thing you can do is really be yourself. You can’t try to replicate anything anyone else is doing, because you’re not them. The first questions I had for the band were whether they wanted me to replicate the sounds from the album and whether they wanted me to play with a pick, which isn’t my preferred method of playing, as it’s not my first language on bass. They kind of laughed and said that they love my playing and my tone and they want me to have fun and do what I like. They said it’s not a gig,

it’s a band, and I should approach it like that. When I first joined, Dallon reached out and sent me the nicest message congratulating me. He’s a great guy and I really like his playing. But I’m trying to approach this band as myself as a player. How are you able to infuse some of yourself into the lines? I’m playing the songs as they are on the album for a specific reason, because the people who come to these shows are diehard fans and they know the songs front to back. I want the audience to enjoy the show, so I’m sticking to the script pretty closely. However, we’re playing live versions of the songs that have a lot of different touches differentiating them a bit from the album work, and we always play off each other. My touch can change night to night in feeding off the crowds. I might hit harder or phrase something differently, so it’s a bit of a mix. How do you approach playing upright and synth bass differently?

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Nicole Row

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When I’m playing upright, I look at it more similarly to singing. There are no frets, so there’s a lot more freedom. You’re always going to be different than everyone else on upright; people will hear notes slightly sharper or more flat than the next person. You can articulate things differently. I don’t really take any of the same playing principles from electric to upright; it just wouldn’t sound the same. As for keybass, usually the lines that require that instrument are more open and sparse, so I try to give the songs exactly what they need. Tell us about your custom short-scale Jazz Bass 5-string. What do you love about the shorter scale? It all started when I got my hands on Fender’s short-scale Mustang Bass. But there’s something about a 5-string’s punch that really comes across in the music and cuts through, and in the world of Fender, there weren’t any short-scale 5-strings. Dennis [Galuszka] at the Custom Shop was nervous about making this instrument because it was a new thing for Fender. I knew I needed that room between the neck pick up and the neck because I slap, so I had to have that area for my thumb to hit. Little things like that went into it and made it ultimately great for the overall design. I got everything that I have in my American Elite bass, but in a smaller package that fits me just perfectly. When I play my other regular scale basses I’ve learned to develop a technique of these tiny little jumps when I’m playing chromatic notes. I jump to get to just the right spot and this smaller bass gets rid of that. And stupid things, like when I have to tune my bass, I always have to pull my bass closer to reach the tuning pegs because I’m a small person. With this bass that isn’t an issue anymore. I was overwhelmed by how perfectly this bass came out. Describe your playing technique. I feel like bass players only think about that all of the time. It‘s our lifelong journey. In my head, I feel like most all of my personal tone comes form my hands. If you give the same bass to a bunch of different players it’s always going to sound different depending on

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who is playing it. My original way of living was that I believed in playing one bass and you create a bond with that bass with your tone and touch. There’s something really great about having one instrument that you meld with. My original bass was a Fender Marcus Miller Signature Jazz and it still just feels like home when I pick it up. I need the low B string for Panic, but when I get home it’s just magical when I play it. I set up all of the basses with really low action so that they’re sensitive to my touch, and it gives me more possibilities when it comes to dynamics. What is your ideal bass tone? If I could have vintage Precision tone plus modern Jazz bass tone, that would be my ideal sound. I don’t like just one thing, so I wish I could have both. I love to play funk, R&B, soul, Motown, and rock, so I want my tone to be authentic in all of those genres. You come from a jazz foundation as your background. How does that influence you as a player overall? Jazz is a huge part of my musical identity. It allows me to be open to improvising and take on anything that’s thrown at me. It makes everything easier to apply in any genre. I’m so grateful that I got my start in jazz because it has had a huge part in helping me become the player that I am now. Before Panic, you played with Miley Cyrus. What was that gig like for you? That was a really fun gig to play bass on. I came in expecting to play what I heard on the radio and assumed that I would be playing synth bass primarily. But she was in every single rehearsal with us musical directing everything and she would tell us exactly how she wanted things and she’d come up with musical changes on the fly. I had never had rehearsals like that with an artist, and especially not one of her caliber. She’s a really amazing musician and I feel like a lot of people don’t know that about her. She’s very much about doing your thing and being yourself, but also nailing the lines. You’ve played on some big stages with some big names. What are the keys to approaching huge gigs like those?


Nicole Row

You can’t overthink it. When you walk out there you have to be prepared and know what you have to do, but there are so many factors that go into that. Your sound is going to be different everywhere you play, and you’re not going to have the same vibe from venue to venue. And in big arenas the sound won’t be as booming from the stage perspective. You’re wearing in-ears and you have to really focus on what everyone else is doing. When you walk out there you have to let all of that go and just focus on the music and focus on having a good time. Always remember that all of those people are there to have a good time and because they love the music, so you should always try to relax and ease into that moment. When did you start playing bass? I was actually older than I wish I had been. I didn’t start playing bass until I was 17, and it was a foggy time for me as I was getting in a lot of trouble back then. I didn’t really grow up with any instruments, but my older brother got a drum set and it made me want to play drums, but my brother said no way. I had all these friends who were musicians, so I picked up a bass at some point

and it came naturally and I realized that all of the music that I liked was bass-oriented. I didn’t even think about the fact that I wanted to be a bass player, it just kind of happened. I started playing with people in garages and jamming with as many people as I could. I learned all of my favorite songs and at the time I wasn’t playing music in school, so I didn’t really think about how I was going to do this as a lifestyle. I didn’t plan ahead – I just started doing it. Kids usually don’t know what they’re going to do or a have a life plan, and if you tell people you’re going to play music they’re like, good luck with that. But I made it happen and it happened pretty quickly. Who are your biggest bass influences? When I was really young I was obsessed with Sublime. Eric Wilson is such a great bass player and I was a diehard fan of his. Once I turned 18 and I made my move out to LA I got really into funk music and then got really into Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Nate Phillips, and all those players. Then I transitioned into Motown. It’s a pretty standard progression for us bass players. Then I got into fusion and eventually into John Paul Jones. I love how

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COURTESY FENDER

Nicole Row

he approached a rock band and how he incorporated the blues into his lines. What’s your best advice you’d give to another player? There’s a local bass player who is a big inspiration to me, named Frank Abraham, and we were talking about getting up on stage for open jam sessions and he told me that you just have to put yourself in all of those situations and let yourself be scared. Once you do it, all that fear goes away and you’ll grow

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so much and take so many things from experiences that might make you uncomfortable or terrified at first. The only way you’ll learn is by doing it. Don’t stress about it, keep doing what you love, and those gigs will come. And that’s exactly what I did. I put myself in different situations, I scared the shit out of myself, I got up and played with musicians I couldn’t hang with, and he was right, those gigs came. l

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CLF Research L-2000


Bakithi Kumalo’s African Bass

ARMAND SABAL-LECCO Play Your Story By Chris Jisi |

B

Photo by Marchand Films

akithi Kumalo was the first African bass player to reach prominence in the U.S. and worldwide, through his stunning fretless work on Paul Simon’s landmark album Graceland [1986, Warner Bros.]. In subsequent years, Kumalo has been a tireless supporter and promoter of his fellow African bassists, leading to this Bass Magazine conversation series in which Bakithi chats with his peers. First up is Armand Sabal-Lecco, whom Kumalo credits as the second African bass player to follow him to the U.S. and the world stage, via Paul Simon’s album The Rhythm of the Saints [1990, Warner Bros.]. Since then, Sabal-Lecco has made his mark as a bassist and composer with such artists as Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci, the Brecker Broth-

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ers, Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Stewart Copeland, Al DiMeola, and Sir George Martin. Armand also formed Mass Mental with Robert Trujillo and has his own band, Positive Army. Armand, where were you born, and what was some of the first music you heard? ARMAND SABAL-LECCO I was born in Ebolowa, Cameroon, in Central Africa. As far back as I can remember, I was hearing both local music and music from the outside world. At a very young age I became interested in the traditional music from all of the towns in the region. Cameroon has 400 different dialects, and each dialect can carry at least three distinct styles of music. Pygmy music from the east forest of Cameroon particularly blew

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Armand Sabal-Lecco

my mind, and still does; it’s some of the most complex music I’ve ever heard. In Cameroon back then, after the 1 PM news on the national radio station, they would play traditional music from remote villages discovered by anthropologists, from 2 PM to 5 PM. On the other hand, you would hear jazz, classical, and Western popular music on the radio, on records, or in movies. Yaoundé, where I grew up, is a big city with people from many different origins, so you’re exposed to and learn about a lot of styles of music. BAKITHI KUMALO In South Africa, the radio and record stores were controlled by the system, so we were only hearing music from Europe and the U.S. If you wanted to hear traditional music, you had to go out to the townships in Zululand. What instrument did you start on, and how did you get to bass? ASL I tried guitar first, but my first serious instrument was drums. I was into Billy Cobham and Mike Clark from Herbie Hancock’s band, as well as the traditional music I was studying. But I only dabbled a bit in bass, because Cameroon is very bass-centric. My older brother, Roger Sabal-Lecco, and Vicky Edimo — who was from the Douala side of Cameroon, where I believe Richard Bona grew up and where Etienne Mbappé is from — were the two players at the helm of a bass-heavy movement in the ’70s that mixed Afro-pop with virtuoso bass playing. They created a sort of Afro jazz–soul, an all-inclusive world gumbo! That was my first major bass influence. Anyway, I was still playing drums and began noticing that by the time I packed up my kit after shows, everyone else in the band had left with all the girls. So I decided to move to bass permanently! What was your first bass? ASL I didn’t get my own bass until I was living in Paris. I did what Bakithi did and went to the music stores to practice. I’d say, “Can I see that Fender?” And they’d say, “Are you interested in buying it?” And I’d say, “Of course” — but I didn’t have a dime in my pocket! I’d come in and “try” all the basses while I practiced, but I was scratching them

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up. Finally, they caught on and tossed me out. Then someone gave me an Italian ’60s Eko bass, which I somehow managed to pull a sound out of. Later, when I got into Jaco, I forked the frets out. My first good bass was an ’80s Ibanez Roadstar with a single humbucker pickup. BK That happened to me. My music store had a line of fretted basses and a fretless on the end that no one played. I’d go in and practice on a fretted bass, and when no one was looking I’d pick up the next one. Finally, they said, “You come in here all the time and play all the basses, but you don’t buy anything. Go play the fretless.” Eventually I bought it [his fretless Washburn that he played on Graceland] because it was cheap. I’d take it on gigs and the band would say, “Something is wrong —the tuning is bad!” Or, “That’s for jazz, not our music.” Then I went to Zimbabwe and Zululand for a couple of years and figured out that this instrument was my voice. Who else beyond your brother and Vicky Edimo were among your bass influences? ASL Two other great bassists from Cameroon: Alhadji Touré, an excellent makossa player, and Dikoto Mandengue, who had a totally different, more sober style. Another favorite was Atebass from the bikutsi band Les Tétes Brulées. From abroad, there are so many, but the first shock was Stanley Clarke — I’d never heard such a clear sound and such phenomenal playing — and then, Jaco was huge for me. Also Cachao, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Paul Jackson, Larry Graham, Anthony Jackson, Louis Johnson, Abraham Laboriel, and of course, James Jamerson; his playing is a master class in architecture. But it’s funny; when I was a drummer I listened mainly to bass players. Once I became a bass player, I listened mainly to drummers. The master Senegalese drummer Doudou N’diaye Rose is a very important influence, but the meat of my rhythmic concept is Pygmy and bantú spiritual music from the east and south jungles of Cameroon. The two of you first met for Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints album. What was


Jump Head

your impression of each other? ASL I first heard Bakithi on Graceland, and I was blown away. His playing made so much sense; it was the glue that held everything together, but also the icing on top. That was my introduction to that style of South African bass. Bakithi was storytelling — he was playing where he was from. It was all about emotion, so when he plays he disappears in the music, and in that context, when you disappear in the music, that’s when you are great. Therefore, when I finally met him I couldn’t simply say, “Show me this or that lick.” It would be like him showing me that his pants were blue; it’s completely out of the context of his whole story and why he played the lick. BK It was the same for me. When I first met Armand and heard him play, I was floored. I thought, This is the other Africa that I’ve never seen or heard before. First, it was his rhythmic approach, and then also his notes — they came in places you didn’t expect them! “Spirit Voices” and “Born at the Right Time” are the two Saints tracks you’re both on. ASL We were never actually in the studio together. Those two tracks were the result of Paul’s editing choices. Paul was moving forward with new rhythms he’d heard in Brazil, but in seeking the origins of that music, he discovered it linked to music from Cameroon. Paul had met the late guitarist Vincent Nguini, who was from Obala, Cameroon, through Hugh Masekela in 1987, and he put him in charge of the Saints sessions. Vincent was the one who brought me in. During a lot of the sessions, Vincent and I would sing the Cameroonian traditional patterns to the Brazilian percussionists, who would play them on their instruments in their style, which really completed the circle. Bakithi, the subsequent Saints tour was pretty much your only extended time not being in Paul’s band. BK It was a transition period for me, but it made sense because with Vincent and Armand speaking the same musical language, it allowed them to more easily provide what

Paul was looking for. Graceland was over, and while it was a great album, The Rhythm of the Saints was musically deeper. Armand, you had to play a lot of Bakithi’s bass lines on the tour. ASL Yes, and I couldn’t wait to play them! I had some different basses, but I had to get a good fretless for the songs Bakithi really sang on. BK I was way in the back for the [1991] Central Park concert, and I heard you, and I wanted to come closer to see what your were doing! You and Steve Gadd and the percussionists sounded unbelievable. You were playing the parts from the Graceland album but using your own completely different approach. It was like, if you had recorded the songs originally, this is what you would have played. And then when I came back in the band, I had to learn that approach! Paul said, “You’ve played these songs the same way for a while now — why don’t you listen to what Armand did and apply some of that.” Which was great. It was something fresh for me to do, and it gave the songs new life. How would you two describe the characteristics of African bass playing? ASL I’m glad you said “African.” I always refer to it as Africa as a whole, because it’s the same heartbeat everywhere, and the borders are simply the scars of recent history. Although the differences are largely promoted, the natural and common approach is quite similar throughout the continent’s various cultures. Sure, there are different styles and specificities according to regions and countries, just as there are different musical styles in regions and states here in America. Overall, though, I would start by saying that African bass is very melodic. Melody has a prominent role. Unconfined to the lowest notes, it punctuates the whole arrangement and converses with the singer while keeping the dancer turned on. This is because the bass isn’t the only thing holding it down and keeping the pulse — the percussion does that, the guitar does that. In African music, the bottom is up and means much more than the top. So the bass, being more free, gets to move around.

L I ST E N Bakithi Kumalo After All These Years [2016, J&D Music]; Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger [2016, Concord]

Armand SabalLecco Bunny Brunel & Friends, Bass Ball [2017, Brunel Music]; Jaco (Soundtrack) [2015, Iron Horse Entertainment/Mass Mental] GEAR Bakithi Kumalo Brubaker and Warrior bass guitars, NS Design double bass, Kala U-Bass; La Bella strings; PJB amps, Asterope cables Armand Sabal-Lecco ’79 Music Man Sabre, ’74 Fender Jazz Bass, ’70 Alembic Series II, ’80 Alembic piccolo bass; Dunlop strings; Ampeg amps

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Armand Sabal-Lecco

BK I think a big reason the bass is melodic is because it’s coming from the voices, the singing. When I got it together on fretless, I was thinking like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The root is sung by the voices, so the bass can double that, but it’s also free to find its own space. Like Armand said, the bottom means more than the top. African audiences listen to the bass and can sing the line the bass is playing. How about on the rhythm side? BK Rhythm is the other key component. In addition to the traditional drumming, I think some of it comes from the languages, which all have a lot of rhythm — like Zulu, which has a clicking sound in their vocabulary. There’s a side of African bass that’s like a tuned drum or a bass kalimba, with short, muted notes playing traditional patterns. ASL Exactly — African bass ranges from very melodic to very rhythmic, sometimes in the same song, sometimes in the same figure. I think this is because to the African ear, rhythms are melodies and vice versa. BK One other factor in African bass is the lack of a formal music education, like learning Western theory. I learned my instrument on the street, by listening. So when I played, it wasn’t as much about the notes and the chords as it was the sound and feel. Maybe I’m hearing an accordion or kalimba in my head, and here is how I’m feeling the music. ASL African bass players are raw but sophisticated at the same time. Many don’t know by name what a 7/8 is, yet that’s what they’ve been playing all day. They turn out to be more interested in playing than analyzing. Armand, how would you describe your bass concept? ASL For me, the bass is like a grand piano or a big band. I don’t even think of it as a bass. I have the whole big band in my head, and I accentuate what I need to accentuate on the fingerboard. I’m the conductor, and I call on different parts of the orchestra based on the needs of the music I’m playing. I was also fortunate that when I came here and got to collaborate with jazz artists like Stanley

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Clarke, Don Grusin, Michael Brecker, or Herbie Hancock, they allowed me to write and arrange for their ensembles. That enabled me to paint a much better picture than I could have painted just on bass. BK Did you apply your concept of learning music from its roots when you came to the States? ASL I did, but my career started in Europe way before the States; I like to have a good understanding of where a style came from and where it went. From there, I would adapt that to my approach, which is what African musicians do. Understanding the intimate origins of what I play allows me to mix the ingredients in the kitchen rather than at the table. I’ve gotten to play rock, funk, jazz, country, blues, folk, and I dig it all. If it has human emotion in it, I can relate. I don’t have boxes for styles. What’s also cool is the ethnic spin that creeps up on the music we play. For example, the other day I heard Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs” [Foot Loose & Fancy Free, 1977, Warner Bros.], which is Carmine Appice playing straight rock drums and Phil Chen playing with a reggae feel on bass, and the groove is just phenomenal — fat and round. So whether it’s a Chinese-Jamaican bass player with Rod Stewart or you or me with Paul and the other artists we’ve played with, we’re all contributing to the American book of bass, and that’s a deep honor and a full circle. What’s the biggest lesson you learned here? ASL It’s like what Bakithi was saying. A guy like Paul doesn’t care about what circus technique or stellar harmonic knowledge you have. He’s not interested in “chess on a track.” He wants you to make him feel something, make a connection; that’s all he cares about. I got my theory and my reading together, and I then I realized the higher the tier, the simpler and more natural things become. That shocked me on my journey. People like Paul or Ringo Starr or Peter Gabriel just want you to express yourself and move them emotionally. They want to hear your life; they want you to tell your story. So if Bakithi or I go in and try to tell Stanley’s or Marcus’ story, well, they could have called


Armand Sabal-Lecco

those guys. They called you instead, because they wanted you and how you hear their music. It’s all about being yourself and telling your true and unique story. BK That’s when the music gets deeper and goes beyond the page. But music is changing now, because there are shortcuts. You can go to YouTube and slow things down, so there’s less creativity and more imitation. You end up playing from memory instead of in the moment. To become a top player, you have to do more than just play well — you have to create musical bass lines in the studio, and be able to create on the fly, live. It’s a constant state of listening, reacting, and creating. ASL You’re right; there’s a new generation of bassists who fall in love with YouTube and then come here and go to music schools where the same formatted curriculum is drilled into everyone. Well, to me, what’s important is that if a player came all the way from Africa or even all the way from Mars to improve his or herself, they come

with a story. It would be enriching to lean in and explore that and help it blossom, rather than delete and reboot. Often, a rigorous school background emphasizes playing what you learned, while African music emphasizes playing what you feel. It makes you express your own feelings within the context. What is upcoming for you? ASL I’m working on another solo record with Positive Army, which is coming along great. I’m doing some writing for Triangle, the band with Senri Kawaguchi and Philippe Saisse, and also writing for Stanley [Clarke] and for Bunny Brunel’s next all-star bass album. And Mass Mental is working on some music for an animated film project. BK Thank you for chatting with us today, Armand. ASL You were the first to shine bright with African bass on this side of the world, and you remain an inspiration. It’s my honor to be the first bassist interviewed in this important series. l


Mountain, Michael Schenker Group, Steelheart

REV JONES

Practice Makes Better … Playing Makes Perfect By Freddy Villano |

R

Photo by Brian K. Denton

ev Jones’ riff-blasting, face-melting virtuosity is on full display on Bakwash, his long-awaited debut solo album. Songs like “New Drug,” “Bakwash,” “Long Legged Lady,” and “Candy” feature ample amounts of the pyrotechnic tapping skills and over-the-fretboard-fingering he’s famous for. But the 49-year-old Oklahoma native does not deploy these “tricks” for spectacle alone. Actually, it’s all in service of his seemingly effortless musicality, which is quite possibly his most astounding trait. Live, Jones is a dynamic performer, both visually and sonically. Whether with ’70s guitar hero Michael Schenker in the Michael Schenker Group (MSG), or classic rock icon Leslie West and recent iterations of Mountain, or ’80s hair-metal stalwarts Steelheart, his seemingly endless array of licks, fills, and musical motifs — while certainly attention-grabbing — never seem out of context with the songs. There’s an old adage that says less is more, but Jones seems to throw such conventional wisdom out the window by successfully employing a “more is more” approach. On Bakwash his playing is tasty, melodic, and deep, even if it is flashy and a bit over the top. What’s perhaps most compelling about Bakwash, however, is that Jones’ seemingly off-the-cuff improvisational skills translate really well to the recorded format. We talked to Jones in his hometown of Oklahoma City to talk about what went into

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the making of his debut and how he developed his unique approach to playing bass. Did you record Bakwash with a band in the studio, or did you file-share via the internet? Bakwash was recorded in three different studios, two rehearsal rooms, two bedrooms, and a garage [laughs]. All of the parts were recorded at different times in different states, and there remain a few bass and vocal tracks that were recorded on the early demos, which were basically meant to be scratch tracks, but I found no reason to replace them. I applaud [guitarist and mixing engineer] Jim Dofka for managing all these tracks and somehow making it all sound uniform. How did you go about creating the framework of the tunes for others to cut their tracks? I recorded all the bass, vocals, keys, and some guitars first; then I sent it to Dofka to record the guitars and solos; then we sent it to Jeff [Martin] to record the drums. I know it seems weird to do the drums last, but it gave Jeff an advantage: He knew exactly what was going on with each instrument and the vocals, at all times. It created the ability to throw in odd-ball drum fills without affecting anyone else’s part. At what point did you write your bass parts? What’s weird is I usually write my bass parts last, even though I hear them the whole time in my head. I just don’t commit to anything right away, because it often happens

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BRIAN K. DENTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Rev Jones

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Rev Jones

that I’ll be recording the bass track and a new bass line will pop in my head, and then another one, and another one, and before you know it I’ve changed the part to make the song better. How did you track your bass? I split my signal in half with a Radial ABY box to two Phil Jones Bass amps, one clean and one distorted. I leave the EQ flat, but I cut 630Hz out; on basses, 630Hz sounds farty. I usually don’t mic my cabs. I just run a direct signal from each head. I feel that I have more control over my sound using DI lines than I would moving mics around until it sounds right. What are you using to get such killer distor­ tion, and how do you employ it so effectively in the mix? I actually have the same overdrive sound at all times; it just seems to jump out more on certain parts or blend back on other parts. I use a Maxon ST-9PRO+ Super Tube Pro [overdrive] that has a cool bass boost switch. The amp EQ is exactly the same on both clean and dirty, and the levels are even in the mix. The real secret is making sure that they are both in phase. If they’re out of phase, the sound is very different and most people won’t notice until its mixed — the bass just seems to keep disappearing. So, always make sure they are in phase. When you flip the phase-reverse switch, the bass sound will get louder if they were out of phase. Live, you seem to incorporate a lot of improvisation into your bass lines. If I do a bass solo live, it is improvised, with the exception of how it starts and how it ends. If I’m playing with Steelheart or MSG, I still do some improvising throughout the show, mostly bass fills and maybe a bass line here and there. But if I’m playing with Leslie West and Mountain, I am improvising the whole time — I never play the songs the same. It might sound similar because I play similar things that fit over the parts, but whatever pops in my mind gets played. Improvising live not only helps build up second-nature skills, it [improvising] also benefits from those skills.

What are your thoughts on warming up pre-gig? I do not warm up on bass before a show. If you are at home running scales and patterns, that’s great, and it is okay to warm up a little bit before you play a show — but I’ve seen so many people who warm up way too much. Running scales is not the same as playing a bass line. Practice makes better, playing makes perfect. l

L I ST E N Rev Jones, Bakwash [http://revjones.bigcartel.com/] GEAR Basses Dean Custom Rev Cadillac 4- and 6-strings, (all 4-strings) Dean Cadillac w/Kahler tremolo, Dean Custom ML, Dean Demonator, Dean Hollywood Z, Dean Pace Contra electric upright, Dean Pace electric upright, Dean acoustic bass, Dean Espana classical guitar (6-string), Warr Guitars Custom 12-string Touch Bass (fretted/fretless hybrid) Rig Phil Jones Bass D-600, D-400 and D-200 Digital Bass Amps, Phil Jones Bass 8B & PB-300 cabs Effects Maxon VJR-9 Vintage Jet Riser, Maxon CS-9 Pro Stereo Chorus, Maxon Overdrive ST-9PRO+ Super Tube, Maxon AD-9 Pro Analog Delay, Maxon DB10 Dual Booster, Maxon BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver, TWA WR-3 Wah Rocker, Emma Electronic Okto Nøjs, Godlyke Power-All PA-9D 9V Digital Power Supply Kit, HAO BL-1 Bass Liner, Radial Bones Twin City A-B-Y Amp Switcher, Rocktron Banshee talk box Strings Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound (.045–.105), Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound (.032–.130), Ernie Ball Flat Wound (.045–.105) Picks IntuneGP GrippX Standard (1.0mm) Bass accessories Kahler bass fixed bridges, Kahler bass tremolos, DMT pickups, Bartolini pickups, Lace USAB Ultra Slim acoustic bass pickups Additional accessories Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G2 in-ears, Ultimate Ears UE-10 in-ears, Sennheiser EW 172 G4 wireless system, Sennheiser e935 cardioid mic, Sennheiser e835 cardioid mic CO N N E C T Visit Rev online. CHECK IT OUT

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Silversun Pickups

PICKUP ARTIST Nikki Monninger powers Silversun Pickups’ latest album with big riffs and even bigger tones sculpted by acclaimed producer Butch Vig By Jon D’Auria |

Photo by Julia Simone Paul

A

fter almost 20 years of anchoring alternative-rock powerhouse Silversun Pickups, a whole lot has changed for Nikki Monninger. In that span the band has released five critically acclaimed albums, they’ve traded intimate venues for large headlining bills, they’ve been nominated for Grammy Awards, and for Monninger personally, she now has two sixyear-old twin girls. But what hasn’t changed is her massive role in the band’s driving, anthemic music or her use of her beloved Gibson Thunderbird bass, which she’s played since day one. And like the classic muscle car that bears the same name, Nikki’s prefers to put the pedal to the metal and gun it at full speed. “It Doesn’t Matter Why,” the first sin-

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Nikki Monninger

CITIZEN KANE WAYNE

gle from Silversun’s fifth studio album, Widow’s Weeds, exemplifies exactly that with Monninger’s speedy pick work and her melodic steering of the band. Helmed by Nirvana/Smashing Pumpkins/Muse producer Butch Vig, founder of Garbage, the album cops a darker and more reflective feel than previous Silversun records, as it propels from fast-paced riffs that take the listener on a ride, to deep, orchestrated tracks that shift the vibe inward. Known for her creative bass work and love of musical motifs and cyclic lines, Monninger exhibits her expansion as a player with broad strokes of tonal dynamics, thanks in part to Vig’s willingness to experiment in the stu-

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dio and convey the sounds she’s always been chasing. But tone aside, Monninger currently finds herself in a state of elation with her newest material, her band, and her family. While constant change can be a good thing, some good things don’t always have to change. When we chatted during the recording sessions for your previous two albums, 2012’s Neck of the Woods and 2015’s Better Nature, you were heavily into funk bassists from the ’70s. What was influencing your playing this time around? I was listening to a lot of ’80s new wave music like Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, and Joy Division. Something about that sound really hit me recently, and I got deep


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Nikki Monninger

L I ST E N Silversun Pickups, Widow’s Weeds [New Machine] GEAR Bass Gibson Thunderbird, Epiphone El Capitan IV Acoustic Bass Rig Ampeg SVT-CL head, SVT 8x10 cabinet Pedals Zvex Woolly Mammoth Bass Fuzz, Boss ODB-3 Overdrive, Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth, Fulltone Bass-Drive Mosfet, Aguilar TLC Compressor, DarkGlass Vintage Deluxe Strings Ernie Ball Roundwound .045– .105 Other Roland SPD-SX Sampler, Suzuki Omnichord OM-27

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into the bass players from those bands. I like to pull from any influence I can, from classical to rock to even movie scores, which Brian [Aubert, singer/guitarist] is really into. When we talk about writing our songs, he uses a lot of vocabulary from scoring and sound design. That’s why we like to utilize strings in our music and make things thematic. But things don’t have to be musical to inspire you musically. It can be art or nature or movies that drive you to create. What was it like for you to work with Butch Vig? Butch is so easygoing, and he makes everyone feel so comfortable, that it’s really easy to open up when you’re in the studio with him. You can fully trust him and explore further. For the first week, we went to his house to do pre-production at his home studio. We recorded four songs with him, and then he had to take a break to tour with Garbage, which turned out great because that allowed us to have a chance to breathe and write new songs. I always get so nervous about recording, because I sense the finality of it — that once it comes out commercially, it’s like that forever. I try to shift that nervousness toward putting in the effort of doing my best work possible and being proud of what I record. Butch is the perfect catalyst for that because he’s so supportive and encouraging and he creates a safe space for you to project what you’re really trying to express. Butch has produced so many albums and has captured some iconic bass tones. Did you try anything new in working with him? On the song “Simpatico,” I used my fingers instead of a pick. I typically only use a pick, but I felt like that song needed a fingerstyle tone, and I’m a newbie at that, so it was definitely a challenge. It ended up getting more of a dub sound because of that. The last song, “Chameleon,” has my favorite bass tone that I’ve ever captured in the studio. I wanted something really aggressive and chaotic, but I wanted to keep the low end, which is a difficult thing to mix — and he did exactly what I asked of him. He pulled it off precisely how I heard it in my head. The best part of work-

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ing with Butch is that he always asks each one of us individually what we want our part to sound like. He’s in a band, so he values individual players and what they bring to the group and add to the sum of the whole, so we always knew he was listening to each of us. You get a very different bass tone on “Bag of Bones” and “Songbirds.” Did you use your acoustic bass for those? Believe it or not, I actually used my Thunderbird on the whole album. For those two songs we went for a Peter Hook/Joy Division type of sound, which we achieved in the mix. I was really happy with how those came out from a tone standpoint. It’s nice to explore, but I always make sure that my bass always carries a lot of low end. I don’t use a lot of pedals live anymore, because I want my sound to have the big body. If I go for different sounds, I try to manipulate them with my hands on my bass. To me, the first responsibility of bass is to stay true to the deeper foundation, unless there’s a specific tone you’re going for on a particular song that requires some chaos. “It Doesn’t Matter Why” has a super-catchy and driving bass line. I knew when we were writing that song that the bass needed to keep moving in an almost robotic way, or like a train. I love repetitive playing, and I knew the bass’ role in that song was to push everything else around me up and drive the beat. I added in some transition notes to those parts, and Butch raised them in the mix, and I’m really happy with how that came out. A great element of your playing is your use of repetitive, thematic bass lines and ostinatos, like in “Growing Old Is Getting Old.” Is that your M.O. in writing? I love that song so much. We always get excited when one player plays one riff through a whole song — maybe even just three notes — and then when they switch it up and add even just one more note, it changes everything. There’s beauty in that simplicity, and a little change in that driving motion can shift everything. Same thing with drummers; if they play the same beat over and over


CITIZEN KANE WAYNE

Nikki Monninger

and then throw in one hi-hat fill, it can shift the whole course of the song. You’re doing a lot of singing on the new material, per usual. Has this batch of songs been challenging in juggling both duties? I’m still a hesitant singer, but Butch made it easy to try things vocally. It really helped my confidence levels. I like being in there

when Brian records his parts so that I can think of harmonies in that moment. Brian and I have a special bond between our voices when we sing together, and he’s always supportive of my singing. You have to feel safe to sing, and it’s important to feel comfortable in that space to do that. I’m lucky to have a band that likes my singing, because I’m not a tradi-

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Nikki Monninger

CLAIRE MARIE VOGEL

Silversun Pickups: (L–R) Christopher Guanlao, Joe Lester, Nikki Monninger, Brian Aubert

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tional singer; I don’t have a rock & roll voice, but it somehow works in our band. This is your fifth studio album. How has your playing developed in that span? When we first started the band, I had barely been playing bass. Brian and I were roommates and he was playing guitar, so I picked up the bass, and now here we are. I’ve learned so much in that 20-year span, but I still feel like there’s so much room for growth. I always want to learn more, but I think that I’ve added to my knowledge with every album. The bass in our music doesn’t have to show off; it needs to make its own path, but it doesn’t need to take the spotlight. I try to dance around Brian’s voice as much as I can. I always try to move with his vocals and what he’s singing. You’re still rocking the Thunderbird after all these years. How much is that bass part of your musical voice? When I first playing started I used a Precision, but I was never quite happy with my tone with it. That bass ended up getting stolen early on, and I had always wanted to try a Thunderbird, and I immediately fell in love and it felt like home. Now when I play other basses it feels so different. I even stand a certain way with my Thunderbird. If I’m holding a different bass, I feel awkward because the balance is different, and I do think that I ma-

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nipulate the strings in a certain way strictly based off the T-Bird. Companies often offer me their basses, but I politely decline because I have my bass and my sound. Should I be trying other basses? Nah, you’ve become well known for your T-Bird sound. Okay, I’ll check back next album. What have you been working on in your personal practice? I get nervous playing live, so I like to practice the songs a million times before we hit the road. Right now that’s the mode I’ve been in. My twin girls wake me up at 6 AM, and then I sit on the edge of the bed and play my bass for about an hour before I have to get going. But pretty soon my daughters won’t want anything to do with me, so I have to enjoy it now. It can be hard juggling being a mom and being in a band, so I’m trying to savor all of those moments when I do get to be with my girls and also get a chance to practice. Do you think either of them will want to follow in your footsteps and pick up the bass? This morning they were both singing one of our new songs, “Freakazoid,” in the bathtub together, so I guess there’s a chance. It was really adorable. But to them it doesn’t matter that I’m in a rock band. To them I’m just Mom, and that’s fine with me. l


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Weezer

SCOTT SHRINER Can’t Knock The Hustle By Jon D’Auria |

IT

Photo by Karl Koch

started as a suggestion in a tweet from a 14-year-old fan in Ohio. Perhaps it was a joke, or maybe she was serious, but she politely asked Weezer to cover the song “Africa” by Toto. Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson responded to that tweet, and shortly afterward, a video emerged of the band granting her wish and playing the beloved 1982 hit. Before long, that video ignited the social media fronts and went viral, where it now stands at over 9.5 million views on YouTube, while the track reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart. A new wave of millennial fans on college campuses and in high school hallways fell in love with that tune, thanks to its resurrection by one of the most popular alternative-rock bands of the past three decades. So, being the intrepid musicians that they are, Weezer decided to put out a whole album of covers from the ’80s and ’90s, and thus sparked the band’s Teal Album. For Scott Shriner, this was nothing new — he grew up playing in cover bands his whole life and earned his chops from riffing along with John Entwistle, Chris Squire, and John Paul Jones. Shriner stepped up to the challenge and kicked out bass-heavy versions of

“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears. But for the prolific Weezer, one album in 2019 wasn’t enough, so the band went back into the studio and released a full LP of originals only three months later, which they dubbed the Black Album. The record departs from the sounds of 2017’s Pacific Daydream with bigger, more pronounced tones, and even a heavy hand of synth bass provided by Shriner, along with some seriously fun 4-string lines in the songs “Living in L.A.,” “Too Many Thoughts in My Head,” and “The Prince Who Wanted Everything.” Spending hours on end kicking out bass ideas with producer Dave Sitek, Shriner made sure that every line on the album hit its mark, and the result is a mixed bag of styles that display his unique approach. To fuel that approach, Scott used a wide selection from his impressive collection of basses and amps that he’s been hunting down through his 18 years of being in Weezer and beyond. And when we say impressive, we mean it — we could write a whole feature on his vintage gear alone. Shriner was selective in his tone choices, for both albums even using multiple basses and amp configurations with-

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Scott Shriner

L I ST E N Weezer, Teal Album and Black Album [Crush Music] GEAR Bass (on current tour) 1959 Fender Precision Bass, 1960 Fender Precision, 1965 Fender Jazz Bass, 1962 Fender Precision Rig 1973 Marshall Super Bass Head, HiWatt 200-watt head, Sun Model-T head, Emperor 4x12 guitar cabinet & ported 8x10 bass cabinet Pedals MXR Phase 100, Wren and Cuff Tri Pie ’70, Dwarfcraft Baby Thundaa, Guyatone WR2 Wha Rocker, Endangered Audio Research AD4096 Strings Ernie Ball Slinky Mediums (.045–.105) Synths Moog Taurus 3, Minimoog Voyager, Dave Smith Instruments Prophet-6

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in individual songs. For a relentless tone junkie who has a competitive side in raising his own bar, this meticulous process paid off in the end. If you don’t believe us, catch Weezer on their current tour, where they’re kicking out classic hits, covers, and new tunes from their massive 300-song show catalog. And in case it’s not obvious, Scott will be the one clad in a slick outfit, belting harmonies and playing one of his gorgeous vintage basses in front of a towering stack of classic cabinets. What sparked Weezer’s jolt of productivity? Starting with the White Album [2016], we figured out a system where we can keep kicking out albums every year. Rivers [Cuomo, frontman] had two folders of songs; one was to go toward the White Album and the other to a Black Album, and he was thinking that the black stuff was going to be a lot darker and he was going to swear all over it. That didn’t really end up being the final product, but it’s different-sounding, for sure. Then the covers album came up and we just jumped on it. Did a single tweet from a fan really lead to creating the Teal Album? Pretty much. We put out the “Africa” cover for fun, and our manager suggested doing a full cover album after that. Since I grew up playing in cover bands, for a long time I was better at learning other people’s stuff than creating my own music; I’m not recommending other players to do that, but that’s how I learned bass. I’ve met musicians who cannot learn other people’s songs, and I totally respect that, but I came from a world where you had to be able to play a lot of styles to survive. So doing a covers album was very natural for me. How did you go about choosing the songs? We all kicked in ten songs that we wanted to do. The funny thing about Weezer is that if the four of us ever made a Venn diagram where we all name what music we’re into, our circles would never really cross [laughs]. If you were in the room when we were bringing our ideas to the table, you’d wonder how these guys are even in a band together. Somehow we managed to come up with that list, and we were

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all excited about doing Tear For Fears and all of that — but when Rivers brought in [TLC’s] “No Scrubs,” we all kind of rolled our eyes at him. Then when I sat down and started playing it, it clicked and I realized that this song is rad and the bass line I was playing was dope and how is this happening? Then I got really excited about it. I don’t know if anyone likes it or not, but I think it’s bumping. How did you dial in your tone differently on each song to capture the right vibe? For a lot of it I used my ’65 Precision where I bypass the tone and volume pot and I’m wired straight to the pickup through an SVT rig and a Kemper [amp modeler] with a Sun Model T modeled in it. I have so many amps, but I stuck with that. A lot of my heads and cabs are profiled in the Kemper. I played like four different basses on that album — my Jazz Bass with flatwounds, my Rickenbacker, my ’62 Precision, which is my staple, and my ’65 Jazz. I had to figure out what worked best for each song; some songs needed different elements from the verses to choruses, so I’d use different basses within a song. How much fun was it playing the iconic “Billie Jean” bass line? That song is no joke. It’s a relentless line to keep playing and keep even the whole way. I’m not going to act like it took me just a second to learn that and be able to pull it off — it took me a minute to get it all down and ready to record. It took a lot of concentration. After tracking it for a couple of hours, I was strained, because it’s a lot of handwork. Then I had to go play it live and sing harmonies on it. I actually wanted to hear more synth bass on that track, but we blended the keybass with the electric bass. What was the writing process like for the Black Album? Our process has definitely changed over the years. We’re all free to send the producer we’re working with song ideas, and then they go through all of them and pick songs and decide what would make a cohesive album. This time around, that producer was Dave Sitek [TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Little Dragon]. Then we all go in separately and re-


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Scott Shriner

KARL KOCH

cord our parts. On the Black Album we didn’t really see each other at all in the studio. A lot of times I’d go in to track, and it would be the first time I’d hear the song in [that] state,

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and I’d have to just hop right in and play bass all day. Dave is a bass player, too, so I really trusted him and his ideas. We’d put a section on loop, and I’d try a bunch of different


Scott Shriner

approaches until he started freaking out, and then we knew we had something. If he wasn’t saying anything or moving, chances are I wasn’t doing anything for him, so it became a game for me of how I could blow that guy’s mind for each song. How did you approach your sound? Over the years I’ve realized that a lot of the time I was more in the guitar range of things, with the amount of the midrange I have on my bass. That sounds awesome when the bass is isolated and on its own, but then when it’s put in the mix, it kind of messed with the guitar parts. I learned that it served the band much better if I stuck more on the low side of things. Now I know I have to really stick to my role and supply that depth. We already have two guitar players in the band. I grew up listening to Chris Squire and John Entwistle and I’ve always loved treble attack, but sometimes in this band, it’s better if I stay out of that range. As an example, on a song like “High as a Kite,” I approached that with more of a dub sound. The Black Album features a lot of synth bass parts. What led to you taking that route? The evenness and thickness of the synth is so different from an electric, and when I’m going for a legato sound to destroy the Earth with, Minimoogs are great and powerful for that. It’s way less expressive for me, because I’m not a great keyboard player, but it really packs a punch with low end. Some of my bass friends always tell me about pedals that will make my bass sound like a synth, but if I want my bass to sound like a synth, I’ll play a synth. Some people are just more of the mind that they need to evolve the instrument to keeps kids involved, but the sound of an acoustic kick drum and a Fender bass will never go away. You use some cool note placement on “The Prince Who Wanted Everything.” Dave and I worked on that line a lot together, listening to what the guitars were doing and going in another direction altogether. It’s kind of a hokey swing feel that goes along with everyone else. It’s not something I would have played ten or 15 years ago, but I’ll

give Dave some of the credit for helping me find that and being open-minded to try new things and evolve my playing. I love this band because it gives me the opportunity to grow and do my thing. I get set in my ways and patterns and do what’s comfortable for me, but I’m super happy to be challenged and learn something new and not have an ego about it. What have you been practicing lately? I went through a heavy James Brown period, which to me is like going to bass boot camp. It taught me why the one is so important, why having such a fat sound is important, and how to play the same thing for three minutes with no fills or extra notes. I learned so much from that stuff. And then when I need a break from that and I need to get my grind on, I’ll play some Yes to kick my butt. Squire’s lines are such workouts and they’re great to play with to get your chops up. Weezer plays long shows that pull from a huge catalog. What is that like for you? Heading out on our current tour, Rivers sent us a master list of 300 songs and asked if we were cool playing all of them. I wrote back and said that I’d play any song on that list with a few hours notice. Again, that’s kind of the competitive side to me where I love a challenge, and if someone is asking to me a duel, then bring it on. It’s exciting to have so many songs because it keeps the shows engaging. And the songs are so good that all I have to do is help the audience enjoy themselves and support Rivers in his show. My job is pretty clear. How does it feel to have solidified your place in the music and legacy of Weezer? It wasn’t luck or anything. I didn’t know any of those guys, and they auditioned 20 or 30 bass players, a lot of whom were their friends, so I earned my place in this band and I take that very seriously. I’m just so grateful and proud. It’s how I would imagine getting made into a mafia family would be. I’m a made man now. I’m a full member of this band, and it’s not like nobody can kill me or anything, but I feel like I’ve cemented my place in this legacy. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s pretty fucking great. l

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MUSICAL MIGRATION

Michael League Channels His Travels & Growth Into Snarky Puppy’s Vibrant Latest, Immigrance By Chris Jisi

TO

|

Photo by Stella K

the benefit of our ears, Michael League has not been content to remain inside the cozy kennel of Snarky Puppy, the Grammy-winning, groove-rooted, 12-piece instrumental band he founded and leads — widely recognized as the best of its breed. Instead, League has been a most willing collaborator, producing, composing, and playing bass, guitar, and percussion with the likes of David Crosby, Becca Stevens, and Lucy Woodward; creating another kickass band, the Delta-Creole-African mashup Bokanté; and starting his own internationally focused record label, GroundUP Music — with its own annual festival, no less. And that’s all in between forays to foreign lands to learn exotic instruments and traditional music and culture. A bonus to League unleashing his multi-talents and intrinsic curiosity is, of course, that he brings his gained wisdom back to the Snarky Puppy doghouse. That’s especially apparent on the band’s latest, Immigrance. The eight-track disc (with three bonus tracks and three extended tracks to come throughout 2019) has a hefty world

music infusion, a lean and hard-driving sound, and Puppy’s trademark ability to absorb the influence of classic sounds and players, run it through their filter, and respectfully create something original. A military brat born at Long Beach Naval Hospital in California on April 24, 1984, League moved with his family to Montgomery, Alabama at age seven. Three years later, they settled in northern Virginia, where Michael — who had tried drums and violin — settled on guitar, at 13. Turned on to jazz by his older brother, a drummer, League started his own jazz–funk group in high school. At 17, he was asked to fill a void and play bass in the school’s senior jazz band. He remembers, “I was reluctant. They had a Fender Squier with old strings, so I took it home, and that first night I fell totally in love with it.” He also began puttering around on the school’s upright, while gathering the influences of James Jamerson, Jaco, John Paul Jones, Bootsy Collins, Ray Brown, and Dave Holland. League’s next stop was bass major at the esteemed University of North Texas music department. In his freshman year, he formed Snarky Puppy, calling upon nine

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Michael League

L I ST E N Snarky Puppy, Immigrance [2019, GroundUP], Culcha Vulcha [2016, GroundUP]; David Crosby, Here If You Listen [2018, BMG]; Bokanté & the Metropole Orkest, What Heat [2018, Real World]; Bokanté, Strange Circles [2017, GroundUP]; Derek Smalls, Smalls Change [2017, BMG] GEAR Basses 1959 Fender Precision (all original, maple fingerboard); Alleva-Coppolo LG5 Classic, Moog Model B synth Strings Dunlop Flatwounds (.045–.105) Rig Michael League Signature Markbass Casa head and Classic Casa 108 cabinet Effects MXR Vintage Bass Octave, MXR Carbon Copy Delay, MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, MXR Phase 90, MXR Volume X Mini Pedal; 3Leaf Audio Octabvre MK II, Earthquaker Dispatch Master, Earthquaker Spatial Delivery

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of his classmates and grabbing a discarded name from his brother’s Irish band. “I was writing instrumental music that was an amalgamation of my listening list at the time: Pat Metheny, Avishai Cohen, Astor Piazzolla, Modereko, Brazilian music, Afrobeat, classic R&B and funk, Björk, and Radiohead.” League booked a gig in the basement of a pizza place in Denton, Texas, drawing 30 people. Eleven albums and countless miles later, Michael made his Texas return to cut Immigrance. What was the spark that led to this record? It was simply that we wanted to play new songs; it had been three years since [the album] Culcha Vulcha. We’ve had interesting experiences since then, with the band playing in some new places. Also, with everyone in the band leading and composing for their own groups now, we felt it was a good time to put all of that knowledge in one place. We have eight different composers on the album; of the eight songs on the [initial] album release, I wrote four, and there’s one each from four other writers. We’re moving in the direction of having multiple composers contribute pieces, because everyone knows what the band is now. To record, we returned to Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, where we cut Culcha Vulcha, having had such a great time there. They have a huge tracking room, lots of analog gear, incredible cooks — I still dream of their huevos rancheros — and we knew what the space was capable of. We cut live as a band and added some overdubs. How did the title reference to immigration come about? It actually came as an observation about the music after I mixed it all. It became clear that the songs were coming from a lot of different places and styles around the world, as we have done since our first record. But even with an Amercian funk-ish tune like “Bad Kids in the Back” — which is an homage to [Jamaica, Queens keyboardist] Bernard Wright, who was our mentor and teacher when we started out — we didn’t discover Bernard until we were in our 20s. So learning

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about him was like learning about Moroccan music, in a way. All music is foreign to us at one point. No one is born playing music, you have to learn, one artist at a time. In the broader sense, the album title is maybe a jab at the rampant racism, nationalism, and xenophobia that has become recently empowered in politics. To me, it’s all about our perspective on identity. There are those who feel strongly that they are the owners of a certain place, or the essence of a certain place. But we all come from somewhere else, if we just look behind us a little. We’re all the product of immigration, and learning about music is a beautiful way of tracking and charting that journey. There’s a more raw, kinetic sound to the record. I think after making Culcha Vulcha, which is very much a studio record, we were itching to write the kind of music that would be fun to play live. Personally, I was trying to write with a more aggressive edge, and I think a lot of the guys brought in music like that — darker and heavier. As time has gone on, it seems like the band enjoys grooving more, and we’re writing pieces that are centered around how it feels to play, versus how excited people get to hear something virtuosic. I think our desire to have less bombast and more subtlety and depth in the writing comes through here. The opener, “Chonks,” establishes that concept. Exactly — a funky, dirty, feels-good, funto-play song. I wrote it at a soundcheck in Germany while messing around on Clavinet. [Drummer] Larnell [Lewis] joined in, and I recorded it on my phone. A week before the album session, I turned it into a tune, adding the melodies and harmonies, the chorus, and the outro section. There are little elements that make it a Puppy tune for me: the rhythmic identity of the chorus, the rhythmically intricate melodies with the horns, and the weird, moving contrapuntal accompaniment when the melodies enter on the verses. Then we have the Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys type of riff in the outro. I used my workhorse


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Michael League

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT

Check out the “Bad Kids to the Back” official video. CHECK IT OUT

Watch “Xavi” performed live.

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’59 Fender P-Bass, which is on almost every track. “Bigly Strictness” mixes techno and indie rock, with a cool outro groove. It’s kind of rock in the verses and hiphop/swung funk in the choruses. It’s the piece I had the most doubts about, and then we played it and it felt great. I used a pick and two different octave pedals at different moments, which is a fun approach for me, and Shaun [Martin] doubles me on Moog bass. The groove at the end is something I learned when I went to Turkey for six weeks in 2017 to study percussion. The rhythm is called the “Funky Arap,” from the virtuoso Turkish doholla [an Arabic bass drum] player Misirli Ahmet. He invented a whole library of grooves, and this one is a variation on arap, one of the most common grooves in the Middle East. We’re playing it pretty much note for note, but in half time. I thought it would be good for grounding the solo section at the end. Our three percussionists are playing daf [a large Kurdish frame drum], bendir [a North Africa frame drum], and darkbuka [a goblet-shaped drum] here. “Xavi” has a Middle Eastern flavor and a groove in three that feels like four. The song is inspired by Gnawa, Berber, and popular music from Morocco, and it’s specifically based on a common groove/style in Morocco called chaabi, which indeed is in 3/4 but is generally felt in a fast 12/8. I tried to write a tune that playfully mixes the way you can feel the pulse, so some sections feel more like three and others feel like four. Moroccan music doesn’t have a lot of chords, so when you put in modern harmony, that instantly takes it to a different space. But I tried to respect the traditions, using the Gnawa mserah rhythm in the krakeb [a large, iron, castinet-like instrument], and a variation on a typical Gnawa percussion call and ending, as well as some typical Berber vocal phrases migrated to the flutes near the end. The most important aspect for me was that the song be funky and driving. The chaabi groove at that tempo feels like the music is gliding along.

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I used my ’59 P-Bass, which is doubled by a Moog Model B synth in the choruses. The band sounds super tight playing the syncopated lines on the Bernard Wright tribute “Bad Kids to the Back.” Those lines work because as a band, we all know and agree on how we want the subdivisions to feel. It was written by Justin Stanton, who plays trumpet and keyboards for us. Justin is a terrific, conceptual composer. Here, it’s, “What can you do with this specific kind of the funk?” Harmonically the piece moves around a lot, and the melody starts in the horns and moves over to the guitar and bass. We also have all three drummers trading solos; it’s the only time we’ve ever done that. I played my ’59 P-Bass, and Justin takes over in the choruses on a Moog Model B. “Even Us” poignantly captures the plight of many modern-day immigrants. I started writing that in Turkey, in 2017, after I’d been playing oud for just a week or two. [Ed. note: The oud is an 11-string guitar-like instrument, ranging from the bottom B string of a baritone guitar to the D below a guitar’s open E string on top.] When you first play an instrument you don’t fully understand yet, you end up stumbling upon ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise have. That’s how I came up with the opening progression and the B-section accompaniment, which then sat on my phone for two years. On a 45-minute flight from Dallas to El Paso to come to the studio, I busted out the phone memo and wrote the melody and solo section, and we recorded it. The song has a lot of what I learned from studying with my musician friends in Turkey, but it also has influence from Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, heard through Zach Brock’s violin. For the bass, I thought about playing upright or an acoustic bass guitar, but there’s something about the B string on a 5-string bass. Like, when the very first bass note enters, the low D, that’s the most important note in the song to me. I needed the sound of a 5-string with J/J pickups, so I played my Aleva-Coppollo 5. Sometimes what I need in the low


Michael League

end is that specific. Why does Snarky Puppy prefer to be an instrumental band? It’s very egalitarian; you can play in Japan, Poland, or Saudi Arabia, and people will understand the music equally. I mean, they’ll understand according to their musical familiarity and biases, but without lyrics, no one has an advantage in understanding the music’s message. I think instrumental music is beautiful in that way. Plus, there are so many possibilities: Who’s playing the melody? Who’s playing the groove? There isn’t a constant emphasis on a singer. It’s funny — as a listener, I’m not an instrumental-music guy; 95 percent of what I listen to is vocal music. But maybe that’s why I have so much fun with the challenge of an instrumental band. Why have you never done a bass feature on any of the band’s recordings? I just don’t hear music that way. The bass is almost always the groove and the foundation in my head. I don’t think about myself when I’m writing a piece and I get to the bass line. My thinking is, “What’s going to be the best thing to play for the song?” And the answer to that question has never been, “A bass feature!” [Laughs.] But I love hearing features by players like Marcus [Miller] or Victor [Wooten], or Richard Bona, because that’s a part of their personality. I also love the groove side of their playing, which is often less noticed but equally inspiring. They have the ability to create these great features, and I just don’t have it. It has never occurred to me to write something like that. Maybe I will at some point, if I hear it. Once I hear it, I’ll write it. A lot of artists cite the “Snarky Puppy model” for getting their music out there. Have you heard that? I hear that a lot, but I couldn’t tell you what it is, because I’ve been at the center of doing it and it’s the only way I’ve ever known. I’d have an idea and we’d try it; if it didn’t work, we didn’t do it again. I suppose the elements could include going on tour for a long time, making videos in the studio, using social media versus trying to get a record label

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to do it all for you, trying to create your own path instead of conforming yourself to a specific, pre-established scene, and giving away some music for free in order to make people willing to buy it. For the latter, we thought, if the music we’re creating is good, let’s make it accessible to as many people as possible, and we’ll draw them into our world. Once they’re in, we can make money other ways, through concert tickets and merchandising. I suppose that particular scenario has been happening in some form for a century. I feel like everyone is doing all of the above now, and probably were before us, as well. But if we inspired anyone or were among the first to use some of those methods, I’m glad we provided a pathway for others. Let’s talk about new artists that you like. I imagine your radar isn’t up for young, instrumental, jazz-influenced groove bands. I hear enough of us! Although, there are good ones out there. It may seem obvious, but I’m a huge fan of everyone on our GroundUp label roster. I encourage everyone to check them out. More and more, I’m drawn to bands that are using folkloric music as a foundation upon which to be innovative, like La Perla, from Colombia, who played our festival. It’s four women from Bogota who sing and play gaita [a long, vertical flute-like instrument] and percussion; they sound folkloric, but most of their music is original. Or, C4 Trio from Venezuela — three cuatro players who are masters of their traditional music, but they’re writing unbelievable tunes, and they put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I like working with artists from other parts of the world who have a solid knowledge of where they came from but are not content to stay there. David Crosby is like that, as well. He comes from the singer–songwriter tradition, but he’s down to get weird and push boundaries, as we did on his latest record [Here If You Listen, 2018, BMG]. With many young artists from the States, there doesn’t seem to be as strong a connection to the music that preceded them. That’s a concern right now, for sure. In-


creasingly, young musicians here are trying to do something new and innovative, which is both healthy and essential to the evolution of music — and an integral part of the American music tradition — but many don’t have a truly solid foundation upon which to build. Let’s say you’re trying to innovate in funk-based music. If you were put onstage with P-Funk, would you hold your own and sound good? These days, you have social-media stars who have never played a gig or done a tour. There’s so much pressure to brand yourself and market yourself as unique that many people are more focused on that than taking care of business in a musical way: learning exactly what the greats played, or seeking them out and playing with them, in that master/apprentice way. Of course, my perspective is based on the way that I came up: music all day, every day; practicing; lessons; in the van listening; setting up the gear of players better than us; playing in an endless array of bars and clubs; and having veteran musicians or bandleaders kick my ass — figuratively, in most cases. You should always be searching for your voice and trying to draw out what’s unique about yourself. But an absolutely essential part of that process is, ironically, getting inside of the heads and hands of the masters, and genuinely embracing being taught. It opens you up to new ideas and perspectives that unlock your own hidden potential. When this is used as the foundation for creating your own music, actual innovation is possible. Your schedule is always jam-packed. Dare I ask? Snarky Puppy is going to tour for this record through December. Next year will be a big one for my other band, Bokanté. We’ll have new music coming out; I’m producing solo albums by [Bokanté vocalist] Malika Tirolien and Peruvian legend Susana Baca, as well as upcoming albums with Malian ngoni [a West African string instrument] master Bassekou Kouyate, Portugese fado singer Gisela João, Indian singer and flutist Varijashree Venugopal, and my good friends Becca Stevens & Secret Trio. I’m also starting to write for a solo record; I don’t know when it

will be ready or what the direction it will go in, but I’ve begun the process, which is exciting for me. It will be nice to sing again, which I really only get the chance to do with David Crosby. What’s most inspiring for me right now is practicing and learning new instruments, like the gimbri [a three-stringed Moroccan lute], doholla, krakeb, davul [a double-headed Turkish drum played with a stick and a mallet], daf, and cajon. I’m in danger of slipping further down my little wannabe-multi-instrumentalist hole! l

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Michael League

PLUCKING PILGRIMAGE

M

ichael League’s ’59 Fender Precision is a world traveler on Immigrance, drawing from influences that include North Africa, Turkey, Argentina, and New York City’s Jamaica, Queens. Example 1 shows the opening two-bar bass groove of “Coven,” written by Puppy guitarist Chris McQueen. Dig the detail Michael gives to note length throughout, his greasy, horizontal vibrato in bar 1, and how both factors give the 7/4 groove a sense of pocket. Ex. 2 shows the three different bass lines League plays during the solo sections on his composition “Xavi,” based on the chaabi groove in Moroccan music, which is in three but is felt in four. Letter A opens the tune and continues in the first solo section (guitar and violin). Nail the downbeats as you drive the pulse along. Letter B enters at 3:41, for Bobby Sparks’ synth solo. Here, the emphasis is shifted as League lays off the downbeat. Note durations are again key, and he hard-plucks the G–A at the end of the phrase. Letter C takes its changes from a horn melody just prior to Chris Lau-

rence’s piano solo at 7:05. League’s groove here especially brings out the slower four feel against the three pulse. In your mind, count

Ex. 1 Med. world funk = 130

G#m

4

50

4

2 9 11

9

9 11

9 11

4

4

2 2 4 6

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2 4

2 4

the lower notes as quarter-notes starting, on the first low D of bar 1. The next low D would be beat two of the four feel. The first Bb in the 2nd measure would be beat three, and the last Bb would be beat four. Finally, Ex. 3a and 3b are from “Bad Kids to the Back,” trumpeter/ keyboardist Justin Stanton’s piece in tribute to Puppy mentor Bernard Wright. The tune is built on a syncopated rhythm-section unison line in the verse that gives way to a more settled chorus groove. Following that, the melody moves to a bass-and-guitar unison line (at 1:25), shown in Ex. 3a. A variation of the line continues through the ensuing tenor sax solo. Go to school on Michael’s note durations and the slurred lines via pull-offs and hammers. The first two measures of Ex. 3b have a new bass-and-guitar unison melody that enters at 3:11. The second two measures show a reduced version of the line that runs through the ensuing drum solo. Although no chord symbols are shown, both examples are in an F blues tonality. Focus on phrasing with the guitar line in the swung16th feel.


Michael League

Ex. 2 Moroccan funk

A

= 120

Am6

B

5

0

4

5

5

5

0

4

C

8

3

16

5

5

3

7

D7

H

5

5

7

5

7

5

7

5

3

7

5

8

5

Bbmaj13

10

5

5

10

8

3

5

H

5 7

5

Bbmaj13

F6

7

5

3

H

Dm11

H

H

Am7

8

8

6

8

6

5

5 7

5

3

7

6

7

5

5

D7

7

6

3

Am7

Am7

8

3

7

5

7 5

7

5

5

Ex. 3a Swung funk

3

= 108

8 6

8

6

10

10

9

3

PO PO H

9 8 6

8

H

68

8

6 78 6 7

PO

6

85

6

875

6

8 6

Ex. 3b Swung funk = 108

8

8

6 5

6

4

3

6

2

1

8

6

8

6

9

7

8

6

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iel

m

bor

La

r b a A ha

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

By E. E. Bradman / Photo by Phil Farnsworth

IN

a speech first published after his death in 2008, the influential American writer David Foster Wallace told a parable about two young fish who meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” The young fish swim on for a bit, and eventually, one of them looks over at the oth-

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er and goes, “What the hell is water?” Wallace was referring to the deep-seated belief, “hard-wired into our boards at birth,” that each of us is the center of the universe. But the celebrated writer, who was fond of Pink Floyd, Alanis Morissette, the Flaming Lips, and ’80s music, could easily have been talking about a body of work so ubiquitous in American pop culture that we’ve barely noticed its creator.


Jump Head

Caption

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Abraham Laboriel

Over the course of his 48-year career, Abraham Laboriel has brought his heart, ears, and hands to over 4,000 recording sessions, combining a studio ninja’s intense focus with a full-body style that includes energetic strumming and slapping, flurries of four-finger flamenco technique, bluesy bends, bold trills, as well as delicious swoops and slides that cover the entire fretboard. Rhythmic, soulful, complex, and playful, his bass lines convey an excitement that can be hard to contain: Indeed, Laboriel has been known to let the spirit move him in the studio, prompting his fellow musicians to ask, “Abraham, why are you dancing? There are no cameras here!” In conversation, Laboriel is a generous listener who laughs easily. He exudes wisdom and gratitude, and his tendency to get choked-up — which happens often when he talks about his sons Mateo and Abraham Jr., both highly accomplished musicians — is right in line with his intuitive, impassioned playing style. In a town like L.A., which has refined the art of false modesty, Laboriel’s warmly humble manner, perhaps enhanced by his Christian values, certainly stands out. But make no mistake: Abraham is a virtuoso you’ve heard before, even if you didn’t know it. If you were anywhere near a television in the past five decades, you’ve caught Laboriel on the themes to CHiPs, What’s Happening!!, Starsky & Hutch, Cheers, Knots Landing, Amen, Moonlighting, Melrose Place, Will & Grace, Ugly Betty, and Bernie Mac. That was also him adding special sauce to #1 hits like Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing,” getting nasty on Jimmy Smith’s “Give Up the Booty,” and helping Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Dave Grusin, David Benoit, Herb Alpert, Bennie Maupin, Joe Farrell, John Klemmer, and the Crusaders create a new style of sophisticated, jazz-tinged pop music. (Laboriel’s contributions were so undeniable that the Recording Academy gave him its MVP award in the bass category four years in a row, eventually granting him emeritus status so other bass-

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ists could have a chance to win.) When he wasn’t putting the bottom underneath iconic songs like Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” and Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” or contributing to the soundtracks of Terms of Endearment, The Color Purple, My Cousin Vinnie, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and There’s Something About Mary, Laboriel brought the joyful fusion grooves of his band Koinonia to sell-out crowds in Scandinavia and Western Europe. But the pop juggernauts are what sealed Abraham’s legacy. What would Lionel Richie’s string of hits — “All Night Long,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Penny Lover,” “Truly,” and “Dancing on the Ceiling” — be without that Laboriel magic? His massive output means that at any given moment, someone somewhere is almost surely listening to one of his bass lines. The past two decades have found Laboriel laying it down for Michael McDonald, Luis Miguel, George Benson, Larry Carlton, and Lee Ritenour; making crucial beauty with Paul Simon; appearing on albums by country stars Allison Krauss, LeAnn Rimes, and Clint Black; and working with artists as dissimilar as Ray Charles, Ziggy Marley, Andy Summers, Les Paul, Natalie Cole, Christopher Cross, and His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, the former monarch of Thailand. On his own, Laboriel has continued to perform with his lifelong friends, including Justo Almario, Greg Mathieson, Vinnie Colaiuta, Michael Landau, Bill Maxwell, Alex Acuña, and Paul Jackson Jr., as captured on Laboriel Mathieson (2001), Live in Switzerland (2005), and a couple discs of shows at L.A.’s famed Baked Potato. And in Hollywood, Laboriel’s friendship with acclaimed director Michael Giacchino has brought him work on TV shows like Lost and Alias and juggernauts such as Jurassic World, Rogue One, and Mission: Impossible III. Thanks to his work on Frozen — as well as Giacchino-directed smashes like Coco, Inside Out, the Incredibles movies, Ratatouille, and Zootopia — Laboriel is making magic for a whole new generation. This, then, is our celebration of the life and career of Abraham Laboriel, right in time


Abraham laboriel

for his 72nd birthday, in July. We met at the home he has owned for more than 20 years in Tarzana, deep in the San Fernando Valley.

His son Mateo — a composer, producer, recording engineer, and multi-instrumentalist — chimed in. COURTESY KALA BRAND MUSIC CO.

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Abraham Laboriel

COURTESY ABRAHAM LABORIEL

Mexico

As

origin stories go, Abraham Laboriel’s is as epic and inspiring as any Hollywood he-

ro’s journey. Back in the 17th century, West Africans whose slave ship ran aground managed to swim to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where they mixed with Carib Indians, creating a vibrant blend and a unique culture. In the late 18th century, the British exiled these “black Caribs” — also known as Garifuna — to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, where Abraham’s father, Juan José Laboriel, was born in 1906. The senior Laboriel, already a seasoned musician when he arrived in Mexico City in

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the 1930s, would eventually become one of the country’s most respected composers, lyricists, and actors, appearing in nearly 30 films between 1938 and 1972. He and his children share the same strong Garifuna features, energetic presence, and million-watt smiles; watching Juan José Laboriel melt a bad guy’s heart by singing “Quiéreme Mucho” in the 1965 film Alma Llanera is a window into the power of the family’s strong genes. Laboriel’s mother, Francisca Lopéz de Laboriel, was an actress, and the four children — Juan Jr., Abraham, Ela, and Francis — followed suit. By the late ’50s, Ela and Francis had begun their careers as actresses and singers, and Juan Jr., rechristened Johnny Laboriel, had


Juan José Laboriel

COURTESY ABRAHAM LABORIEL

become the lead singer of one of Mexico’s first rock & roll bands. Abraham, born in the summer of 1947, was musical from day one. “My father gave me my first guitar lesson when I was six,” he remembers, leaning over to pick up an old acoustic that belonged to Laboriel senior. “The first thing I learned was a D chord, and he taught me to play with [the ring finger] because I had lost the tip of my [index] finger in an accident.” Although he temporarily quit guitar, frustrated by his injury, it would eventually contribute to his unusual style. By age ten, Abraham was playing guitar by ear, internalizing the wide variety of American music (“everything from Lambert, Hendricks & Ross doing vocal arrangements of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, to Buck Owens & the Buckaroos”), that came from the U.S. “My brother became the most important rock & roll singer in Mexico. All the publishing companies from the United States would ask him to consider recording their

songs in Spanish, and anything that he didn’t like he would give to me.” Abraham, who became his brother Johnny’s arranger, was also making waves with a band called Los Quatros Traviesos (“the Four Naughty Boys”), and his sisters kept him busy, too: teenage Abraham was in Fanny & the Lollipops with Francis, who recorded Motown covers; in 1969, Ela, known for her versions of Platters and Su-

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Abraham Laboriel

premes hits, had Abraham lead a recording session that boasted unusual arrangements — including two basses or two drummers on some tracks — of soul, bossa nova hits, and ballads. On his own, Abraham attained notoriety with teenage rockers Los Profetas, who recorded an LP with Capitol in 1967 and scored hits with “Ya, Ya, Ya’” and “Lupe Against the Red Baron.”

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

(top left) Abraham and Johnny Laboriel. (top right): Abraham and Ela Laboriel.

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

Although primarily a guitarist, Abraham felt the pull of the low end right from the beginning, and his attempt to capture the essence of bass, guitar, and drum parts contributed to his rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic approach. “After my first lesson, I knew the function of the bass. And I absolutely fell in love with James Jamerson. I played Motown and rhythm & blues in bands, and although I was a guitarist, I would teach the bass player his parts.” At his parents’ insistence, Abraham spent two painful years studying aeronautics and not playing music. Eventually, he made a deal: If music didn’t work out after a year, he’d return to engineering. He abandoned plans to study at Mexico’s National School of Music the moment he learned that a composition degree would take 11 years to complete. But when a teacher at his Boston Conservatory audition suggested that he might like Berklee’s non-classical curriculum better, Abraham took a chance.

The Laboriel core, from left: Johnny, Francesca, Ela, Juan José, Abraham, and Francis. Courtesy Lyn Laboriel

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Abraham Laboriel

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

All the Doors Began to Open Abe with his Goya bass at Berklee

60

L

aboriel auditioned and was accepted into Berklee in 1968. His major was composition, and initially, he played guitar. A year before he graduated, however, Abraham began to play bass. Buying his first 4-string from a fellow student led to recording with vibraphonist and future Berklee dean Gary Burton, and after graduation, Abraham hit the road with Johnny Mathis and Henry Mancini, who was pivotal in helping him transition to Los Angeles. We asked about his first few years on the scene, playing fretless, and the impact of his singular tone. How did you end up buying your first bass? There was a Greek musician who needed to sell his bass and go back home, so in 1971,

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I paid $400 for his Goya. It was a very unusual bass; it had a small neck and a high E natural. For my small hands, it was perfect. I was completely at home, and suddenly all the doors began to open: Students began to hire me for gigs and recordings, I learned how to read bass clef, and my teachers allowed me to have play bass in my ensembles. But I had to continue to declare guitar as my main instrument, because the Board of Education did not recognize electric bass as a legitimate instrument. You were still a student when you recorded The New Quartet with Gary Burton, right? Yes. That was my first recording session in the United States. I was still at Berklee, and in


Abraham Laboriel

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

Laboriel in Cleveland (left) and with Abraham Jr.

Even though you love Jameson, there’s no Jamerson tone on those old recordings. I was playing the Goya, which is all I could afford, and in those days, I was using Rotosounds, so there was a built-in brightness. How did other musicians react to the Goya? They made fun of me for having a bass with buttons I had to push. They would say, “Man, don’t bring your Sears & Roebuck bass here. Look at the name on the part — it says, ‘Fender bass.’ Buy a Fender!” [Laughs.] It was difficult for me to get accepted, because for the first four years, all I had was the Goya. Wow. No love for the Goya? Jay Graydon once told me,” Abraham, all of us studio musicians design our sound to blend with one another. Get a Fender bass so that we don’t have to keep trying to figure out how to blend with you. The engineers

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

the same studio where we recorded with Gary Burton, we did “Avenging Annie” with Andy Pratt [for Pratt’s 1973 self-titled album]. How did you make the move to L.A.? When I asked Henry Mancini about getting into the studio scene, he said a very powerful thing: “Abraham, there is nothing I can do for you. Only your peers can help you, and doing [Mancini’s Symphonic Soul record in L.A.] will give you an opportunity to meet some of the local people.” Then he blew my mind! Doing those sessions introduced me to Joe Sample, Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason, Dennis Budimir, Artie Kane on B3, and Emil Richards on percussion — all of whom told me there was lots of work in Los Angeles. I had to wait a year for my wife to finish her internship in Cleveland, so when I came back to L.A. a year later, they all had bass players they loved. Lee had Anthony Jackson; Harvey had Louis Johnson; Joe had Pops Popwell; and everybody else had Chuck Rainey. Everyone said, “A year ago, there was room, but now we are all happy with our bass players.” So, I had to wait two more years before the doors opened in L.A. What was your first session after you moved to town in 1976? Jimmy Smith’s Sit on It, with Herbie Hancock on piano and Lenny White on drums, produced by Alan Silvestri and Eugene McDaniels. Your sight-reading must have been in tiptop shape. Speaking in very raw terms, I still think that I am a very poor sight-reader, but music has always been very much in my heart. When I started to make records in the United States, I discovered that the musicians would spend sometimes an hour on one song, so that by the time the song had been played 30 times, I could equate whatever was on paper with whatever I was playing. Even in those early days, one can hear the seeds of the same tone that you have today. I have many different basses, but Mateo says, “Obviously, it doesn’t matter which bass you play — you have a touch that comes through no matter what.”

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Abraham Laboriel

Chart Attack: 25 Classic Abe Performances 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Leo Sayer, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” James Ingram, “Just Once” Herb Alpert, “Rise” George Benson, “Give Me the Night” Chaka Khan, “And the Melody Still Lingers On” Jeffrey Osborne, “On the Wings of Love” Dolly Parton, “9 to 5” Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, “(Love Lifts Us) Up Where We Belong” 9. Quincy Jones, “Turn on the Action” 10. Elton John & Dionne Warwick, “That’s What Friends Are For” 11. Bette Midler, “Wind Beneath My Wings” 12. Hanson, “MMMBop” 13. Big Mountain, “Baby I Love Your Way” 14. Sheena Easton, “Strut” 15. Al Jarreau, “We’re in This Love Together” 16. Lionel Richie, “All Night Long” 17. DeBarge, “Rhythm of the Night” 18. Johnny Mathis (featuring Deniece Williams), “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” 19. Julio Iglesias, “Me Va, Me Va” 20. Idina Manzel, “Let It Go” (from the Frozen soundtrack) 21. Donald Fagen, “New Frontier” 22. Dr. John, “Accentuate the Positive” 23. Madonna, “I’m Going Bananas” 24. Michael Jackson, “Gone Too Soon” 25. Paul Simon, “Father and Daughter”

are going nuts trying to figure out how to make it sound like a Fender!” Engineers told me, “You know, no matter what we did, we couldn’t make it sound like a Fender, so we had to leave it alone. It sounds different, but it’s you, and everybody is happy.” Sometimes I hear how engineers added low end to fatten up your tone. Did that bother you? Not at all. When I first came to town, Earth, Wind & Fire’s engineers told me that they had Verdine [White] play with tone that was as thin and high-end as possible because

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they could always add bottom. But if it was already fat to start with . . . Then they couldn’t take it off, and they’d have to bring down the bass volume because it wouldn’t sit well with the rest of the band. If an engineer wants to fatten it up because it helps the mix, that’s okay. That was an important conversation. Did you prefer thinner tone, though? To be honest, in those days I was not thinking about tone. I was so focused on making the music as beautiful as I could — and defying the fact that the Goya was a very simple instrument, as opposed to a Fender, which had all this reputation and weight. My Goya bass is what I used to record “Carmel” with Joe Sample and “French Roast” with Lee Ritenour. They are both iconic, and they both feature the Goya. Nowadays, you’re known for your Wyn, Kala, and Yamaha basses. In your New Bass Concepts video from 1990, you introduced us to your Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic bass, the upright you played on The Color Purple, your Valley Arts 4- and 8-strings, your 4- and 5-string Yamahas, and your Tyler basses. I still play the Tylers! James Tyler was the premiere repairman for all the instruments of the studio musicians. Dean Parks, Mike Landau … we would all bring our instruments to him. Pretty soon, he started to make his own instruments based on the knowledge he had accumulated from repairing everybody else’s. The electronics that he puts in his instruments are very special. They’re great for the studio. Engineers really like the preamps Tyler uses. Some of your lines sound as if you played fretless, too. Many people think that I am a fretless player because I do a lot of glissando. You did play an actual fretless on Paul Simon’s “The Teacher,” though. Yes. That’s a fretless Yamaha acoustic. I also played fretless with Kirk Whalum on “The Promise.” I am a very insecure fretless player, so when Bob James told me that that bass line touched his spirit deeply, it was incredible.


Jump Head

In a Musician, Out an Artist! Led by Dean of Instruction and renowned bassist Dr. Jeff Denson, the CJC faculty has established a successful track record, year after year, of transforming musicians into artists! Double and electric bassists study styles and techniques of the master bassists in both private lesson and ensemble formats, focusing on a variety of styles, including jazz, Afro-Caribbean, Brazilian/South American, Indian, funk, reggae, neo soul and others. Bassists attending CJC are afforded numerous opportunities to perform on and off campus in the traditionally jazz-centric San Francisco Bay Area. We invite you to apply now for CJC’s Bachelor of Music or Associate of Arts in Jazz Studies degree programs.

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cjc.edu 63


Abraham Laboriel

COURTESY LYN LABORIEL

Studio King

A

braham Laboriel has been celebrated as one of the most prolific studio bassists in history, and thanks to online sources like discogs.com and allmusic.com, it is now possible to get a glimpse of Laboriel’s superhuman output, which is so staggering that Abraham himself admits there are more than a few sessions he can’t remember. We asked him about a handful of artists who inspired some of his best-known work. Henry Mancini, Symphonic Soul (1975) Michael Giacchino, The Incredibles (2004); Ratatouille (2007); Coco (2017) “When we started to record Symphonic Soul, I would play a few bars, stop, play a few

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more, and stop again. Henry asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was taking a solo. ‘But why are you starting and stopping?’ ‘I’m giving the click room — I’m exchanging ideas,’ I told him. And he said, ‘No, Abraham, nobody’s going to hear the click. That’s just for us.’ I did not know,” says Laboriel, laughing. “Henry also told me, ‘Don’t play what’s on the paper, Abraham. I can get anybody to do that. I want you to play who you are.’ And that’s what Giacchino has been saying to me. He writes difficult music, and when I told him I might have to overdub, Giacchino said, ‘Abraham, Mancini told you: If we wanted what was on the player, we could call anyone. Please — ignore the paper. Play you.’ Incredi-


Abraham Laboriel

bles, Ratatouille, Coco — all that stuff is a result of me being encouraged to just play me.” Al Jarreau, Look to the Rainbow (1977); Breakin’ Away (1981); Jarreau (1983); Heart’s Horizon (1988) “I had never met Al Jarreau, but I recognized him when he walked into Donte’s to see Greg Mathieson’s band one night in 1977. I was playing with Greg, and afterwards, Al asked me if I come do an audition. I’m always grateful and very moved when I think about it, because Greg had invited Al Jarreau to hear me play, knowing that if he liked me, I was going to disappear for a while. “At the audition, with Joe Correro on drums, Tom Canning on keyboard, and Lynn Blessing on vibes, we tried a few songs, and then they asked me to come to Europe for six weeks to do a live album. It wasn’t until we finished the album that they told me they had fired the bass player they’d originally contracted on the gig. I asked them why, and they said, ‘We fired him because at the audition, you were the first bass player who was able to play with intensity even at low volumes.’ They’d never seen that before. “Besides, Corerro and I got along so well musically — people could build anything they wanted on top of what Joe and I were doing. He was from Memphis, and he had a thing that reminded me of [drummer] Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters. I said, ‘Man, I’m home.’”

Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (1980) “Jeff Porcaro, who recommended me to Donald Fagen, picked me up and drove me to the studio for the ‘New Frontier’ session. We arrive, I plug in, and they say, ‘Abraham, give us a few seconds — we’re working on something.’ On this one song, they had Michael Omartian, Victor Feldman, David Foster, and David Paich, and Donald is saying to the engineer, ‘Let me hear David Paich’s right hand with Victor Feldman’s left hand. Okay, now let me hear Michael Omartian’s left hand and David Page’s right hand,’ and they are doing all these juxtapositions. I tell myself that I just might be there all day. “Eventually, they play the song for me, and I start playing. They ask if I can come up with anything else. I do something different, and they say, ‘Yes! Let’s do that for the whole song.’ When I finish, they tell me it sounds monotonous. I could not believe it [laughs]. So, pretty soon I played [what would become the final part], and they said, ‘Let’s record that!’ We did it in three and a half hours. Jeff told me he had never seen them do anything that fast.” Laboriel says that one bass player was just as nitpicky as the Steely Dan crew. “Anthony Jackson was even more perfectionist than they were,” he says, laughing. “Steve COURTESY RANDY FULLMER

The Crusaders, Rhapsody and Blues (1980); Ghetto Blaster (1984) “They called me two weeks before the audition. They rented a room at SIR, and when I walked in, there was Wilton [Felder], Stix [Hooper], and Joe [Sample]. They told me, ‘We want to do an album that has Latin colors, so we want to see if we can relate to you musically.’ It was beautiful. We jammed, and within half an hour, they told me to come to the studio.” Why did Laboriel and Wilton Felder split credits on some of the great sessions for singer Randy Crawford? “Because she was [the Crusaders’] artist, but Wilton really loved my

playing, and he very much wanted to be part of what was happening. He was a phenomenal bass player, so he was playing just to be part of it.”

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Gadd told me he had to threaten Anthony to within an inch of his life because Anthony was constantly asking for a pencil, and anything that Donald would say, Anthony would write it on his part.” Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Abraça Jobim (1981) “That was a very special day, and I was super concentrated. Alex [Acuña], Henry Trotter on keyboards, and me. We were the foundation, and Toots [Thielemans], Joe Pass, Clark Terry, and Zoot Sims were arriving separately to do their parts. At that time, Ella was legally blind, so they had huge cue cards, and she was reading the words while singing. It blows your mind, doesn’t it? That was a whole other caliber of understanding music.” Chaka Khan, What Cha’ Gonna Do for

100% Abe Laboriel is frequently one of several session bassists on an album, but these are all Abe from start to finish: Al Jarreau, Breakin’ Away and Look to the Rainbow Lee Ritenour, Feel the Night Larry Carlton, Larry Carlton The Zawinul Syndicate, Immigrants Luis Bonilla Latin Jazz All Stars, Pasos Gigantos Bobby King, Bobby King Café Quijano, La Taberna del Buda The Winans, Introducing and Tomorrow Andy Summers, Earth and Sky 2nd Chapter of Acts, Mansion Builder All tracks mentioned are on Spotify Search for “Abraham Laboriel on Bass” or click the link below CHECK IT OUT

Search for “Abraham Laboriel Hits & Classics” or click the link below CHECK IT OUT

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Me (1981) “‘And the Melody Still Lingers On (Night in Tunisia)’ is a very important recording, because they used a sample of Charlie Parker and then overdubbed Dizzy Gillespie to reproduce what they had done 60 years before. That alone was historic — and then they had Herbie Hancock and Greg Phillinganes, who is absurdly talented. “Arif Mardin put it together at the last minute with Casey Scheuerell on drums and me on bass. Robbie Buchanan, Greg, and Arif were working on the arrangement when we walked in, and that whole thing was born in front of us. It was very elaborate, and Chaka just concentrated and killed it. She is a genius.” The Zawinul Syndicate, Immigrants (1984) “Recording Immigrants was another proud moment. It was also scary because Joe Zawinul is a different kind of cat: He had all the music professionally copied, and when he passed the parts around, everything looked perfect; it was perfectly conceived. We start running it, and anytime somebody would make a mistake, Joe would say, ‘Okay, stop — in this bar, forget what’s on the paper. Everybody write down that mistake, because that’s how we’re going to play it.’ The music was very nice to look at for a few bars, and then there’d be ten corrections. But I’m proud of what I did on ‘Shadow and Light’ because Joe left my bass part completely the way I played it.” Paul Simon, Surprise (2006); You’re the One (2011) “Paul sent me the music for ‘The Teacher’ ahead of time, so when I went to his apartment in New York, which is where he records, I had done my homework. At first, I was playing a very complex bass line, but Paul said, ‘Abraham, can you simplify this? I don’t feel worthy of being on a record with that bass line.’ [Laughs.] The final line is not a pattern; I just freely decided to play, and he kept it. I love Bakithi Kumalo’s playing with all my heart, and it was Steve Gadd on drums, so it was really special to get together with Paul.”


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JON D’AURIA

Louis & Quincy

P

erhaps the easiest way to get a handle on Abraham Laboriel’s huge body of work is to consider groups of collaborators as branches of a tree. One limb would be the many Japanese artists he has played with, including Hiroko Nakamura, Mari Nakamoto, Izumi Kobayashi, Yumi Matsutoya, Junko Ohashi, Keiko Matsui, and Yutaka Okukura, whose “Love Light” featured Abraham on bass; Laboriel has also done a dozen albums with Akira Jimbo. Another branch might be the GRP family — musicians like Dave Grusin, David Benoit, Gary Burton, Diane Schuur, Ernie Watts, and Al Jarreau — with whom Laboriel sowed the seeds of what we now call smooth jazz.

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The Crusaders crew, a separate but related bough, is headed by Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, and Wilton Felder. Abraham’s extensive gospel/contemporary Christian work would be another, as would his lengthy list of Latin connections, featuring icons like Julio Iglesias, Gilberto Gil, Rubén Blades Blades, Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Luis Miguel. Laboriel’s dozens of TV and soundtrack credits over the past four decades, which includes keepers (48 Hrs., Absence of Malice, Beaches, Deadpool, Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible, Ordinary People) and clunkers (Police Academy: Mission to Moscow), merits its own offshoot. And the mighty Quincy Jones, under whose umbrella Laboriel col-


laborated with James Ingram, Patty Austin, Jeffrey Osbourne, George Duke, George Benson, Louis Johnson, and Stevie Wonder, is one of the stoutest branches of them all.

PHIL FARNSWORTH

What was your relationship with Louis Johnson? Louis and I loved and respected each other. When he played with drummer Bill Maxwell at the beginning of his career, Bill told me, “Abraham, I’ve never played with a musician who could wear me out like Louis can.” Later, Louis invited me to be part of his series of bass instructional videos, which is how Beginning Funk Bass was born. He was a troubled spirit, but I was always so moved by the caliber of his gift. Mateo Laboriel Wasn’t there a song that Quincy asked you to teach Louis? Abraham Laboriel “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me.” Stevie Wonder taught me the bass line, and Quincy asked me to show it to Louis. How did that happen? Carlos Vega and I were recording for George Benson with Quincy and Bruce Swedien, and Quincy asked us to stay because Stevie was coming to demo a song for The Dude; Quincy figured that hearing it with a rhythm section would give him a better sense of how the song would fit the record. Many hours later, Stevie shows up with an entourage — and no song. He was hoping to arrive, apologize to Quincy, and then go out and socialize, right? But Quincy tells him that Carlos and I are there to play the songs with him, so he sits at the piano. He starts playing and singing, and it was beautiful! Quincy says, “That’s great!” And Stevie says, “No, that’s not for you.” [Laughs.] Quincy was recording while Stevie basically made a demo for himself. When Stevie was done, he sat down and said, “Abraham, play this [sings a long and complex rhythmic figure].” It was hard! He’s improvising the song on the spot, and he says, “You can keep this one, Quincy.” That’s what became “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me.” A few days later, Quincy calls me and says, “Abraham, you know I’ve always been honest with you. I want Louis to play the

song on the album, but Louis cannot read, and I know this is a difficult bass line. Will you please come and record it so that he can learn it?” That touched me, because Quincy was not playing games. I said, “I’ll be there.” I recorded it for Louis, who made the final recording. When you guys honored Louis at Bass Player LIVE! 2014, I played “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me” and told the story, and it was really touching. Greg Phillinganes said he never knew that Quincy had asked me to teach Louis that bass line, and I told him it was important for people to know that we are not in competition with each other — we are a community of people that support and love each other. l

NEXT ISSUE Read part two of our interview with Abraham Laboriel, which will run in issue 4, to learn about his favorite drummers, the secret of the shuffle, how his faith affects his musicianship, wisdom he passes on to students, and his career as a solo artist—plus, get a front seat at a recent L.A. gig with an allstar quartet.

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Abraham Laboriel Transcription

FRIENDSHIP’S “WATERWINGS”

Abraham Laboriel’s Soaring Bass Anthem By Stevie Glasgow

A

braham Laboriel was a revelation upon his arrival on the thriving Los Angeles session scene in the mid ’70s. As the first studio bass player to bring an international perspective to his grooves, Laboriel introduced an array of innovative techniques, including flamenco strums and slaps; spirited slides, trills, and whoops; and two-handed fingerboard forays that pushed the limits of bass coordination. But dead ahead lay the track that would challenge even a man of Abraham’s creative means. “Waterwings,” written by keyboardist Don Grusin for the studio supergroup Friendship, appears on the band’s only studio album, the eponymously titled Friendship [1979, Elektra]. It’s a standout among a career of standout tracks because it pretty much includes all of Laboriel’s signature moves, as well as a killer vocal component. Oh, it also involves a made-up language by Abraham. We got an inside look at the piece from the man himself, and from Don Grusin. By the time Friendship coalesced in the late 1970s, the group’s members were already long-term musical amigos. “In those days, there was a lot of studio work, and we played together all the time and became friends,” explains Laboriel. “We also used to play clubs like the Baked Potato, and pretty soon somebody asked [guitarist] Lee Ritenour to put together a band, rather than just release more albums under his own name.” In addition to Laboriel and Ritenour, Friendship comprised drummer Alex Acuña, saxophonist Ernie Watts, percussionist Steve Forman, and Grusin (brother of composer/pianist Dave

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Grusin) on keyboards. “Waterwings” was tracked at Dreambreaker Studios in San Fernando, California, with engineer Don Murray at the controls. Laboriel used a Yamaha BB-2000 strung with medium-gauge La Bella roundwounds, plugged into a miked Acoustic 300 amp. Murray also ran a direct line into the board. The track was recorded live with isolation rooms for the percussion and sax, while the guitar and bass amps were baffled. “We’d always play together to have as much of a realistic feel as possible,” allows Abraham. “There was no click track, so we were really concentrating hard to make sure the tempo and the feel of the music were strong.” The song unfolds with Ernie Watts’s soprano sax sounding a mellifluous repeated motif in E major, as the keys and percussion offer gentle support (letter A). Abraham joins the proceedings at bar 9, with a rising line that grounds the harmony through to bar 18. At letter B, Laboriel advances a scintillating bass-and-vocal unison that extends through C. He recounts: “We were rehearsing and performing one day when Don Grusin said, ‘Abraham, do you mind if I write something for you — a song with a written-out bass line?’ Then maybe a week or so later, he showed up with ‘Waterwings.’ I was like, ‘What? Do you really expect me to play this?’” Laboriel laughs. Of the scat-like vocals, he says: “Don asked me to come up with some syllables that went with the melody — you know, like a nonsense language. I was overwhelmed; I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I applied myself, and little by lit-


Abraham Laboriel Transcription

Don Grusin On “Waterwings” & Abraham Laboriel

H

ow did you get to know Abraham? I had moved to Los Angeles, and Abe had moved to L.A. from Boston, and we’d drive together to the [San Fernando] Valley to rehearse for gigs we were playing at a jazz club called Donte’s. It took forever to drive there in those days, so we had long conversations, and I learned so much about him and his family. It was a great time, and we immediately became friends. How did the Friendship band come together? We all used to work together, different guys that were all part of the same family, and at least once a week, Mondays or Tuesdays, we’d get together at the Baked Potato in the Valley, which was kind of like a recreation room. We’d all play and bring our songs and try them out for the first time. It was a lovely time, and you learned how to make things work in a club. Can you recall your writing process for “Waterwings”? I had a house in Ocean Park that had visual connection to the water, and I was sitting at the Fender Rhodes looking out at the Pacific Ocean, and the main melody slowly came to me. Abraham and Alex Acuna and I invented this language for the melody, called “Poridatalla,” which became the fake lyrics of the melody line. It was just a musical way of expressing the sensibility of the song. We’d been hanging around with Brazilians a lot, and part of the equation was the internationality of the music. I brought out the song, and everybody felt comfortable with it. I remember that we rehearsed it some; it was a community effort for sure. What do you remember about recording “Water­ wings”? I think the recording was basically spontaneous. There were cues when somebody was running out of solo ideas [laughs], and then we’d all look at each other and we knew to go on to the next thing. We had probably honed the song at the Baked Potato, be-

cause that was the weekly jam session back then. We tracked it all together, and then we made repairs. I wouldn’t suggest it was like a perfect delicacy at first [laughs], but it was an easy kind of thing to fix. When you have [engineer] Don Murray — the cream of the crop — it’s not a big hassle. Abe might have a better memory of the recording session than I do; he’s still a lot younger than I am [laughs]. How do you rate Abraham as a bass player? Abe is beyond a good bassist. His musicianship supersedes most people that I know. He’s a sublime musician and understands music from any quarter, all over the world. The fact that he plays some jazz or Latin music is one thing, but he also speaks some Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, English … he’s just so versed in the cultural communities of the world. He’s a reigning master of music in all of its parts. I think more than bass, he’s a master musician. He just happened to be like, “Well, I think I’ll just pick up the bass and make this thing work.” And he does. What are you up to these days? I recently finished a project with Abraham, Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson Jr., Ernie Watts, and a Japanese friend of mine, Minoru Mukaiya [former keyboardist of jazz-fusion group Casiopea]. We recorded a CD in Los Angeles called The Games —East Meets West 2018 [JVC, 2018], and we did three concerts last fall in Fukuoka, Osaka, and Tokyo, with a Japanese horn section. We had such a good time; it was great fun. I’ve also just recorded an EP called Populism Dystopia with Filippo Gaetani, an Italian friend of mine, which is available on Spotify. I’m also working on a project dedicated to friends who have passed on, mostly in the music business. It’s not a requiem by any means, but it’s a tribute record, and I’ve been working with a dozen artists. That will probably come out next year sometime.

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D I S CO N C E RT I N G DISCS Take care! Don’t confuse Friendship’s self-titled 1979 studio album with Lee Ritenour’s 1978 directto-disc long-player for JVC, also titled Friendship. Both albums feature almost identical lineups — including Abraham Laboriel — but they sport completely different collections of songs.

72

tle it started to come together, and maybe a week later I was able to play and sing it. Most people think it was totally spontaneous, but the music and the syllables were completely written out — although by the time of the recording, I was doing it from memory.” (Laboriel overdubbed the vocals after the bass part.) Abraham — known for his guitar-like, multi-fingered plucking technique — reports that after recording the album, he subsequently began playing sections B and C an octave higher. “It’s much harder to navigate the fingerings [in the lower octave]. I never again played it where written.” Built around two eight-bar-long repeating sections, the melodies of sections B and C are rich in chord-defining triads. But there is also much in the way of stressed upper-extension harmony, helping to create tension and interest. for example: the flatted 9th (Cn) over the dominant-functioning B chord in bars 19– 20; the downbeat 11th and 9th, respectively, over the Em chord that carries through bars 21–22; and the An (9th) over the Gm chord in the back end of bar 23. Dig also how Laboriel uses subtle slides to embellish his part, such as during the first three bars of section B. The band kicks in fully at D — an upbeat Latin-tinged section — with a new sax theme from Watts (bars 51–58), subsequently harmonized by Ritenour upon its restatement. Here, Abraham opts for simple root-notes on beats two and four, enlivened by finger-popped fills in bars 54 and 62. The Latin vibe continues throughout Grusin’s piano solo (letters E–F), during which Laboriel conjures a series of supportive ideas and approaches. Highlights here include the subtle introduction of ghost-notes from bar 87 (as Watts introduces a sweet countermelody over Grusin’s ever-intensifying rhythms) and the playful scooped notes from bars 99 to 106. “That section was just a bit of fun, to create a Brazilian feeling,” says Abraham. “I was thinking of the sound of the cuíca [Brazilian friction drum].” Dig also his use of short rests and the Afro-Cuban-inspired beat-four anticipation of the changing downbeat chords throughout section F.

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The group drops the volume at G, as Laboriel launches into a killer solo that incorporates his innate melodicism and several trademark techniques. “Basically, at Berklee [College of Music] I was taught to think in terms of chord scales in relationship to developing a solo … but the ‘Waterwings’ solo was totally spontaneous. I just started to play, and if it sounded good and felt good, we kept it. We maybe ran the track three times and then put the solo together afterwards, so it was a composite.” Observe how the melodic arc of bars 127–­130 subtly reflects the previous four bars. “I came up with a melody, and it just worked, you know,” he says, singing the 16th-based figure in bars 123–124. “Then I did it down a whole-step [from bar 127]. That way, instead of being a solo that meanders or is really scholastically correct, it became a little melody that people can remember.” Note also how Laboriel punctuates the first half of his solo with spirited trills. (Trill tip: Try using a single finger to oscillate rapidly between the frets, and don’t pay scrupulous adherence to the written notes; Abraham’s trills often loosely engird the principal note from above and below to produce that characteristic “zing.”) “Those little trills and scoops are very much part of my personality and way of expressing things. I’m particularly grateful that it’s consonant and that people like it.” The last eight measures of the solo can be broken down into two contrasting groups of four (139–142 and 143–146). “That approach was inspired by a conversation I had with [pianist] Joe Sample. He said that his favorite music has questions and answers, so inside a solo, you build a conversation and a dialogue.” Of the tricky-to-finger octaves in bars 139–142 he says, “I don’t have a consistent right-hand technique, but the first note is always the thumb, then an octave higher would be either the second or third finger. I just play with whatever finger is available.” The percussive strums that follow are another Abraham trademark. “The strums are done with everything except the thumb. But the thumb plays the low notes.” Letter H echoes C — note how Labori-


Abraham Laboriel Transcription

el plays the melody up an octave for the latter half of the section — while letter I revisits material from D, leading to a brief pit-stop over a C#m11 chord (bars 178–181) before a neat segue into Ernie Watts’ song-opening sax theme at J, which is transformed into an extended outro. Here, Abraham fleshes out his earlier part with syncopated phrases (bars 191 and 195), short flurries of 16ths (bars 201 and 205), and a couple of celebratory high-E “whoops” (bars 198 and 202). “Going to the high E like that had become one of my favorite things to do. Most basses only went to Eb.” Laboriel reflects: “‘Waterwings’ was re-

ally special because I’d never played anything quite that involved before. The band gave me the permission and authority to turn it into my own thing, and I became passionate about it. I slowly began to realize how much beauty Don Grusin had built into the song. I haven’t played it in a long time, although I did a performance in Switzerland with Vinnie Colaiuta, Paul Jackson Jr., and Tom Brooks [available on Abe Laboriel & Friends Live in Switzerland, 2004, Worship Alliance]. Also, Don invites me to occasional jazz festivals in Colorado, and we perform it together then.”

Waterwings By Don Grusin | Transcribed by Stevie Glasgow A

= ca. 132

19

B/E Aadd9/E E

Aadd9 Eadd9/G# F#/A#

0

4

B7#9b9#5

B B13(b9)sus

5

6

1.

2.

B C#dim/B

B C#dim/B

7

B7(b9)

7

Em11

3

Em7 F#m7

5

9

7

23

9

9

10

Gm9

8 9

10 11

7 9 10 9 7

A13(b9)

7

10 9

10

7

9

10

10 7

Dmaj9

3

7

9 10 7

0

2

Ab13(b5)

3

3

35

C

6

5 8

5 7 8 7

8

5

Am11

7

6

5

8 7 5 4

7

Ab6/9

5 7

8

S

9

7

5

7

6

7

S

7

4

4

5

7

4

5

5

6

4

Gmaj13(#11)

8

6

5

4 5

3 4

6

6

8

8

Db13(b5)

S

6 7

5

4

5

4

6 6

5 5

3 3

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Abraham Laboriel Transcription

F#m11

39

B7#9b9#5

4

4 7

51

D

6

7

4

Am9

3

D7alt

Emaj13(b5)

2 1

2

3

1

0

Gmaj7

7

Bb13(b5)

Db13(#11)

0

5 5 Emaj7

57

5

5

3

Bb13(b5)

4

3 3 Am9

7

7

5 6

8

6

F#m11 C9sus

P H

5

6

6 7 9

9

4

4 4

6

D7alt

T

T

0

2

8

6 5

Eb7#9#5 D13(b5)

B9sus

3

0

Gmaj7

2

2 5

6

Db13(#11)

PH

7

63

0 0

6

F#m11 C9sus

6 6

5

5

5 5

Eb7#9#5 D13(b5) Emaj7

B9sus

5 5

3

Bb13(b5)

4

3 3

B9sus

E

8

4

4 4

B13(b9)

T

6

0

Eb/E

T P

T

3

2

70

2

2 5

Emaj7

6

76

7

74

0

7

6

6

7

9

7

5

5

6

7

5

5

Eb/E

5

0

4

0

2

6

2

2

F#/G

S

B13(b9)

6

0

D9sus

S

0

7

8

2

7

7

5

3

Emaj7

2

2

2

0

2

2

2

2

2

Gmaj7

3

4

4

2

5

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5

0

7

6

6

B9sus

H

4

5

5

2

3

D9sus

2

2

3

2

2

4

F#/G

5

5

5

5

5

2

3

4

5

4


Abraham Laboriel Transcription

82

Gmaj7

B9sus

S

3

89

5

2

2

5

5

5

5

2

2

Gmaj7

2

7

5

8

0

5

3

1

B9sus

5

5

5

5

5

2

2

2

0

7

0

7

9

0

9

0

7

9

0

7

2

2

2 2

7

F

0 5

0

6 7

3

2

2 2

6

2 2

3

3

3

3

3

2 2

7

6

7

6

6

7

7

B9sus

7

5

5

5

3

5 7

9

0

5

4

2

5

3

2

2

2

7

D9sus

9

7

6

9

7

5

0

9

7

F#/G

9

7

0

9

7

0

0 7

5

0

5

0

5

5

6

3

6

6

Gmaj7

3 3

3

3

5

5 5

Emaj7

3

3

3

3

3

3 3

3

3

5

5

5

5

5 5

5

5

5

5

Gmaj7

3

5

5 5

Eb/E

F9sus

3

5

5

5 5

Gmaj7

Emaj7

7

5

S

Eb/E

9

0

B13(b9)

2 2

F9sus

3

2

1

0

D9sus

Emaj7

F#/G

Gmaj7

5

111

2

2

B13(b9)

11

106

2

Eb/E

D9sus

5

100

0 5

F#/G

3

95

5 7

B13(b9)

3

1

3 5

5

5

5

5 5

5

5

3

3

F9sus

5

3

5 5

5

5

5

5

3

3 3

3

3

3

3

1

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3 3

3

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Abraham Laboriel Transcription

Gmaj7

116

3

3

3

5 5

1

5

5

5

F9sus

5

5 5

3

5

5

5

5

3

3

3

3

3

3

B13(b9)sus 121

Gmaj7

3

3 3

1

3

3

3

5 5

1

B7#9b9#5

G

H PO PO

5

5

5

5 5

3

5

5

5

5

16 16 14

2

3

Em11

Em7

125

16 (17)

16

F#m7

16

16

S

PO

14 16 16 17 16 14 16 14 12

14

Gm9

loco

H

12 14

12

S

13

12 14

PO

S

12 14 14 16

14 12

A13(b9)

14 12

14

14

13

0

Dmaj9

2

0

14

14

14 14 12

3

Ab13(b5)

14

H

12

14

15

B13(b9)sus

128

3

H PO PO

12 14 14 15 14 12

PO

14

14 12

B7#9b9#5

S

14

11 12

11

11

12

S

12

12

10 13

11

Em11

0 0

14

Em7

132

loco

16

17

H

S

16

1416 16 18

16

16 14 16 14

A13(b9)

136

3

76

5

S

4

5 3

S

H

16 1412 12 14 12

Dmaj9

S

4 4

6

5

4

5

1214

121412 12

H 13

0

S

6

5

6

7

6

6

S

7

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

15

16

14 16

F#m7 Gm9

H

2 0

Ab13(b5)

S

7

H

14

14 16

14

3 5

H

3 5

H

S

PO

S PO

3 5 5 7 5 3

5

5 3

5

B13(b9)sus

6

6

5

4 4

2 2

4 4

2 2

4 4

2


Abraham Laboriel Transcription

B7#9b9#5

140

2

4 4

4 4

2 2

2 2

Gm9

143

3

147

Em11

5 5 5 5 5 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

7

9 9

7 7

A13(b9)

5 5 3 3 3 3

Am11

H

9 9

7 5 5

8

S

9

6

7 7 7 7 7 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

7 7 5 5 5 5

7 7 7 7 7 7 5 5 5 5 5 5 7 7 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

4

3

Ab6/9

F#m7

0

2

9 9

7 7

Ab13(b5)

Db13(b5) Gmaj13(#11)

4

Am11

9 9

7 7

Dmaj9

Ab6/9

5 7

9 9

7 7

Em7

F#m11

3

7 5 5

B7#9b9#5

2

2

6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

Emaj13(b5) Bb13(b5)

1

Gmaj13(#11)

6 4 4

0

6

6

Db13(b5)

155

14

12 14

14 12

14

F#m11

159

I

11

13

14

Am9

0

13

15

13

12

B7#9b9#5

11 14

163

S

15 16

11

15

D7alt

0 0

0

5

5

S

13 14

12 11

12

11

13 13

Emaj13(b5)

14 13

14

15

Gmaj7

5 5

11 12

3

13

12

14

4

11 1314

4 4

10 10

11

Bb13(b5)

11

Db13(#11)

3 3

12 12

13

14

F#m11

0 1

2

14

13

15

12 13

C9sus

3 3

15

B9sus

3

2

13 12

15

Eb7#9#5 D13(b5)

2 5

bassmagazine.com ; ISSUE 3 ; BASS MAGAZINE

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77


Abraham Laboriel Transcription

Emaj7

169

Bb13(b5)

Am9

D7alt

Gmaj7

Db13(#11)

P

7

175

1

0 0

C9sus F#m11

1

2 3

5

5

(5)

5

Eb7#9#5 D13(b5) Emaj7

B9sus

5

3

4

(3) 3

C#m11

4

4

H

T

6

0

J

T

2

186

3

3 0

2

B/E Aadd9/E E

2 5

6

7

Aadd9 Esus9/G# F#/A#

7

7

0

B C#dim/B

6

4

B/E Aadd9/E

Aadd9 Esus9/G#

E

F#/A#

B C#dim/B

6

7

H

0

194

4

B/E Aadd9/E

7

0

C#dimB

5

0

7

7

Aadd9 Eadd9/G# F#/A#

E

0

6

2

3 4

B

5

6

B/E Aadd9/E

6 6

0

5 7

0

2

E

5

B/E Aadd9/E

B C#dim/B

Eadd9/G#

5

E

Eadd9/G#

7 Aadd9

7

Aadd9

0

0

F#/A#

2

C#dim/B

3 4

5

B

7 E 207

78

21 7 7

0

0

Aadd9 Eadd9/G# F#/A#

C#dim/B B

4

7

5

6

2

3

4

7

F#/A#

5

6

7

4 4 6 6

rit.

7

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

6

6

B/E Aadd9/E

201

4 4 6 6

6

21

4 6

7

3 4

7 7

0


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79


A Feline Lee Rocker Returns With Stray Cats

S

tray no more. Lee Rocker, guitarist Brian Setzer, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom — collectively rockabilly’s pick of the litter known as Stray Cats — are back and sharper than ever. Some 40 years after they formed in the Long Island town of Massapequa, New York, and 26 years since their previous record, the Cats have clawed their way back with 40. Although it marks said anniversary and delivers the trio’s rockabilly revival staples, with songs about cat-fightin’ gals, bad-boy rebels, and supercharged cars, the 12-track platter also explores new harmonic and rhythmic terrain. No doubt it’s the result of the three being years more proficient and curious on their axes, and more comfortable in their musical creativity. The 57-year-old Rocker remains undersung outside of the realm of dedicated upright slappers who have followed in his propulsive path. In the ’80s, he helped make the acoustic bass popular again in an era of bright-toned, active bass guitars and keyboard-bass-laden

By Chris Jisi 80

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81


Lee Rocker

L I ST E N Stray Cats, 40 [2019, Surfdog] GEAR Basses Kolstein Lee Rocker Busetto Travel Bass, Kolstien Lee Rocker ¾ Model Tuxedo Bass, two King Doublebasses (with gut and steel strings) Strings Efrano gut strings, Jargar medium steel strings Pickups Planet Wing Amp Ampeg SVT-CL head with SVT-810E cabinet, Ampeg Heritage B-15N CO N N E C T Watch Stray Cats recording “Rock It Off” in the studio. CHECK IT OUT

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synthpop. And the Cats certainly had a jump on the current wave of rootsy, acoustic-instrument-driven supergroups ranging from the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons to the Mavericks (the latter anchored by Bass Magazine contributor Ed Friedland). Since the Cats’ initial breakup in 1985, following smash hits like “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” and millions of records sold, Rocker has remained true to his art. He formed Phantom, Rocker & Slick (with guitarist Earl Slick), leading to two records and the MTV hit “Men Without Shame.” His 14 rockabilly-infused solo albums include one departure in 2011’s The Cover Sessions [UpRight], on which he reimagined songs by the Beatles, Allman Brothers, and Elton John in a minimalist, Americana style. He has performed with Carl Perkins, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, the Ramones, and Scotty Moore, and he briefly joined the cast of the 2011 Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet, playing the role of bassist Clayton Perkins (brother of Carl). And there was a steady stream of Cats reunions, resulting in four more albums in the late ’80s and early ’90s, tours in 2004, 2007, and 2008, and a single show in 2009 for Setzer’s 50th birthday. Apparently, even while the cat’s away, these Cats will play.

What was the path to this record? In the summer of 2018, for the first time in about nine years, we decided to do four shows — two in California, one in Las Vegas, and one in Chicago. We met up, got onstage, and it just rocked. The chemistry was there, the band sounded better than ever, and there were audiences of 20,000 people singing every word. So I said, “Man, it’s time. We should be doing this again.” That led to us talking about how we were coming up on our 40th anniversary, and how it had been 25 years since we’d done an album. And by October 2018 we were in Blackbird Studio in Nashville tracking the record. You cut the record live. That was the plan, because the impetus

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

for the album was the four concerts. We’re at our best as a band when we play live, so that’s how we recorded: all in the same room, standing shoulder to shoulder and playing at concert volume, and we didn’t have to use headphones. We were trying to capture what it is we do onstage. There were little two-foot-tall walls between us, and some ceiling carpets were hung to reduce some of the bouncing and bleeding. We did a few overdubs later, and obviously there was post-production with delays and reverbs, but for us, the studio is not the fourth instrument, as it is for some bands. With the Cats, you don’t want to overproduce and overthink it. This album very much reminds me of our first record [Stray Cats, 1981, Arista], which came out only in Europe, with Dave Edmonds producing. How did recording that way affect the music? It enabled us to look at each other and hear each other with the intensity and focus of playing onstage. We’re a rock band, but in a way, we operate like a jazz band. The songs are never played the same way twice. Everything is a conversation between us. If I finish a chorus a certain way, Brian and Jim will hear it and answer me. Or if Jim plays an accent, we’ll all jump on it. Playing with that kind of spontaneity and fluidity is a blast. Who wrote the songs? I wrote and sang lead on “When Nothing’s Going Right,” and Brian wrote and sang the other 11. But we all have a lot of input in our parts and the arrangements; they sort of evolve as we go. We were sending back and forth working demos before we got to the studio. We had 17 or 18 songs, and we whittled them down to the 12 that best fit the album. How do you come up with parts for new songs? I listen to the song and try to provide what’s needed, and then everyone works off that. There’s very little discussion over our parts; we just play what we think works and try to put our stamp on it. Occasionally, someone will say, Hey, can you try this or that. What I love about the Cats is the vast amount of sonic and musical


Lee Rocker

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Lee Rocker

space I get to occupy, with no other instrument down there in my domain; I get to stake out the low end. For inspiration, I still go back to my biggest influence, Willie Dixon. When you listen closely, his parts are always a little different from what you think they are, and that’s what I tried to do on this record. A great example is Willie’s part on Chuck Berry’s “Beautiful Delilah” [Chess single, 1958]. I was fortunate to see him play when I was a teenager. What basses did you use? I played three different instruments. Two are King Doublebasses made by Jason Burns, who went on to start Blast Cult. The third is my signature Kolstein Busetto Travel Bass, which has a slightly thinner, teardrop-shaped body, a full-size neck, and a carved top — I used that only on the blues tune “That’s Messed Up.” The two Kings are set up differently: One has steel strings, EMG active pickups under the strings, and a piezo pickup behind the fingerboard. It has a heavy low end with a lot of sustain, and that was my sound from the early days; it’s on tracks like “Rock This Town,” “Runaway Boys,” and “Rumble in Brighton.” When I started out, there was no good, established way of amplifying an upright bass for a rock band. I basically nailed an electric bass pickup to the bottom of the fingerboard, which gave me low end and volume without feedback. Soon after, I added a piezo pickup to run through a second channel, to get some finger and slap sound — but the early piezos were feedback machines! Over the years they have vastly improved, with great tone that doesn’t color the instrument’s sound, and no feedback. The other King I used has gut strings and a piezo pickup, for a much more traditional sound. There’s a nice attack and a natural decay. I use the gut-string King for slap-heavy tunes like “Rock It Off,” “I’ve Got Love If You Want It,” and “Mean Pickin Mama.” How were the basses recorded? I always have a blend of three or four sources. At Blackbird we took a direct signal from the pickups, which meant two signals on the steel-string King; we miked my Ampeg SVT rig, which was on its side, horizon-

84

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

tally; and we had a high-quality tube mic by the ƒ-hole and the bridge. If I’d been recording in an isolation booth, I would have added a mic about three feet away for room sound. Vance Powell, our engineer, did a great job capturing my bass tones. Perhaps more so than on your previous records, there are songs that extend beyond traditional rockabillly, like “Cry Danger.” The casual fan sometimes puts us in a rockabilly box, but the band is very diverse, especially for a trio. For this album we focused on trying to show our musical growth. “Danger” is a cool track built on Brian’s George Harrison-esque, backwards “Day Tripper” riff. I used my steel-string King to provide a big foundation, and I came up with a two-bar pattern that worked [basically two half-notes followed by four quarter-notes]. “I Attract Trouble” has elements of camp and humor often present in Cats songs, and a cool half-step motif. Right. That has a campy vibe, and musically it’s sort of a nod to the Cramps and punk psychobilly. I used the steel-string King to lock it down. We’re actually a pretty funny group of guys to be around, so we like to have that element on our albums. We wanted to make a fun, cool, feel-good, rockin’ record that could take the listener away from all of the craziness going on in the world right now. The instrumental “Desperado” summons the Ventures and the late Dick Dale, as it continually modulates upward. There’s a considerable surf element to that track; it’s a tricky tune that we worked on for a couple of hours. It took me some time to sort out what I wanted to play and how. I’m not slapping — it’s traditional plucking on my steel-string King. Afterward, my tech said, “I can’t believe it!” I had pitted the fingerboard and there was sawdust on the floor. I was playing so hard for so long on the steel strings that we needed to get the board sanded and refinished! “Devil Train” sounds like a slap tour de force, with its galloping groove and spaghettiwestern coloring. For sure, that was a major workout. Bri-


Lee Rocker

an said, “This song is all about the bass.” I’m pretty much playing the galloping figure [an eighth-note and two 16th-notes] for the entire track; that’s the engine that drives it. I used my gut-string King. It’s a little reminiscent of a song we did called “Gina” [from Blast Off!, 1989, EMI], but this is darker, in a minor key. How did your song, “When Nothing’s Going Right,” come together? I wrote it specifically for the album. It’s not full-on rockabilly. I had been listening to Rockpile, Dave Edmunds’ old band with Nick Lowe, so the song has a rockabilly flavor, but it also crosses into early-’60s rock a bit. I used my gut-string King, and the bass line is a set pattern as opposed to just walking through the changes. I also like the counterpoint between Brian and me; he came up with a different guitar part for each verse. I brought in another song called “Doughouse Shuffle” that didn’t make it onto the album. I’m going to record it with my band and re-

lease it this summer. As for the Cats, we’ll tour in support of this record for the rest of the year, and while we’re out there, we’ll discuss potential plans for 2020. How have you grown as a bassist and musician since the early Cats days? My goal, like all musicians, is to steadily improve and increase my musical vocabulary. I’ll discover something new and I’ll think to myself, Damn, really? After 45 years of playing the upright bass, you just figured that out? And it’s not just me — the whole band is better now than ever before. I love how we’ve all grown while retaining what makes us who we are. I remember when we opened for the Rolling Stones in 1981. We did the first stadium show, and we were standing together in the middle of the stage, as we still do. Afterwards, Mick Jagger came back to see us, and he said, “It sounds great, but you have a giant stage — use it!” l

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85


Jack

Casady A CAREER RETROSPECTIVE & APPRECIATION By Jim Roberts

IN

1969, the well-respected music critic Ralph J. Gleason interviewed 25-year-old Jack Casady for his book The Jefferson Airplane and the San Francisco Sound. In his introduction to the Q&A, Gleason wrote: “For one who gets such a huge, driving sound from the bass, he is a smallish man, habitually concealed behind huge suede coats, dark glasses, and ponchos. But there is nothing shy about the way he plays or talks. He considers what he says carefully, his mind works uniquely and provocatively, and he knows what he is about.” Fifty years later, as he celebrates his 75th birthday, Jack Casady still knows what he is about — which is playing great bass, often with his longtime musical partner, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, in Hot Tuna, the band they formed as a sideline to the Airplane in 1969. The lengthy collaboration between the two goes back even further than that, to their boyhood days in Washington, D.C. They began to play together when Casady was still in junior high and Kaukonen, three years older, in high school. “It is interesting that Jack and myself became partners in crime,” writes Kaukonen in his autobiography, Been So Long. “He was younger than me in a time when that meant something. Our slight age difference meant nothing to our friendship. Music called to both of us and we answered it.” Casady’s musical career began when he was 12 years old and discovered

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Jack Casady

his father’s Washburn guitar in the attic. “After my parents heard me playing it,” he recalls, “they said, ‘If he wants to play it, we’ll get him some lessons.’ That started me off.” By the time he was 15, Casady was playing in local clubs, using a fake ID to pass for 18, the legal drinking age at the time. He worked with Kaukonen on some of those gigs, playing lead on his ’58 Telecaster — “I wish I had that guitar today,” he says — while Kaukonen sang and played rhythm on his acoustic guitar. “My opportunity to play bass came when I filled in for a guy who was playing a Fender Precision Bass,” Jack says. “This was in 1960, when I was 16. Danny Gatton and I were buddies. He was a year younger than me and a wunderkind on guitar. That summer, a job opened up, three or four weeks in a club — this golden opportunity to work every night — and his bass player got sick. Danny asked me to fill in. I’d never played bass, but he said, ‘Jack, how hard can it be? It’s only got four strings.’ So there it began.” Casady took to bass immediately — “I loved the sonic area” — but struggled with the neck on the P-Bass. He addressed that problem by going to Chuck Levin’s Music Center in Washington and ordering a Jazz Bass, a new Fender model that had just come on the market. “My hands are not very big, and the neck was more narrow. Also, it had two pickups, which gives you more tonal variations.” Jack was soon getting calls for gigs as both a guitarist and bassist, “and my work quota expanded exponentially.” After graduating from high school, Casady went to Florida, where he played both rock & roll gigs and cocktail-lounge jazz. After six months, he returned to D.C., where he was teaching guitar and taking college courses when he got a call from Kaukonen in California. “That was in 1965,” Casady says. “I was invited to come out and join the just-formed Jefferson Airplane.” Unfortunately, just before he headed west, his Jazz Bass was stolen. “So when I went to San Francisco, I didn’t have a bass. I borrowed basses until I bought a new Jazz Bass. It was different from the ’60; Fender had dropped the concentric pots.

88

It had a single volume and two tones, and at first I didn’t like it as much. After a couple of months, I decided I wanted to get more low end, so I had a Precision pickup added, butted right up against the neck. That’s the one I used to record the first three [Airplane] albums.” The first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released in September 1966; it featured vocalist Signe Anderson along with Casady, Kaukonen, vocalist Marty Balin, guitarist Paul Kantner, and drummer Skip Spence. By the time the second album, Surrealistic Pillow, was released in February 1967, Grace Slick had replaced Anderson — bringing with her two songs from her previous band, the Great Society: “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.” Spence was also gone, replaced by Spencer Dryden. That “classic” lineup of the Jefferson Airplane recorded the third album, After Bathing at Baxter’s, which was released at the end of 1967.

“I’d

never heard a bass like that,” said Grace Slick, recalling her first impression of Casady’s playing. “Jack had this roaring, growling thing that would start at the bottom and twine all the way up.” (The quote is in Jeff Tamarkin’s liner notes for the box set Jefferson Airplane Loves You.) Where did that “roaring, growling thing” come from? Not from listening to other rock bass players. “Rock & roll was pretty bad and all,” the young Casady told Ralph Gleason. “I didn’t like any of it.” Although he had been playing Buddy Holly songs and other early rock tunes with Kaukonen in his D.C. days, Casady preferred classical music and jazz. “All my heroes were stand-up bass players,” he says, citing such jazz greats as Charles Mingus and Scott LaFaro. “The only guy that I heard doing something different [on electric bass] was in James Brown’s band, when I saw him play in the late ’50s, using a Fender bass.” Given the time period, that bassist was probably Bernard Odum. (“Later,” Casady told Anthony Jackson and Chris Jisi in a 1993 Bass Player interview, “I admired many of my peers — Phil Lesh, of course, John Entwistle, Paul

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

GEAR Basses Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Model (various versions, including the Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Model); Ribbecke “Diana” acoustic bass guitar Strings Epiphone, Dean Markley Blue Steels (.045–.105); Ribbecke, Rotosound stainless steel, extra long scale, custom set (.050–.110) Amplifiers Epiphone, Aguilar DB 680 tube preamp and DB 728 tube power amp with Aguilar GS 410 cabinet with four 10s + tweeter, plus Versatone Pan-O-Flex with Ernie Ball VP JR volume pedal; Ribbecke, DPA microphone to house system and Alessandro “Basset Hound” head with Aguilar DB 285 JC cabinet (“Little Jack”) with two 8’s and one 6.5 midrange driver Effects None


Jack Casady

McCartney, and Jack Bruce, who appealed to me because he was also playing melodies with a vengeance.”) The jazz influence can be heard in Jack’s early work with the Airplane, where he often played long, fluid runs that “twined all the way up” rather than sticking to root-5 lines or basic blues patterns. “I was always chasing the jazz bass players. That’s why I think, later on, I drifted into the hollowbody bass, because I liked that tone.” The instrument that he “drifted into” was a short-scale Guild Starfire Bass II, which he began to use in late 1967. “I liked to use a more melodic approach, and that more open and acoustic-like sound with the Guild gave me the opportunity to develop in that direction.” As much as he liked the Guild, Casady felt the electronics could be better. He connected with Augustus Owsley Stanley (a.k.a. Bear) from the Grateful Dead’s technical-support crew, and the experiments began. The new circuitry Owsley installed included a res-

onance filter and emitter-followers to lower pickup impedance; this modified Guild was Casady’s main instrument in 1968 and most of 1969 — until, shortly after the Airplane played at Woodstock, it was stolen. He immediately bought another Starfire Bass and sent it to Ron Wickersham, another member of the group of technical experts were who were working with the San Francisco bands. Wickersham installed an updated, active version of the new circuits. It was this bass that Jack played on the first Hot Tuna album, recorded in late 1969. The second key component in the Casady sound was the Versatone Pan-O-Flex, a 35-watt tube amplifier with a unique design. Designed by G. Robert Hall, the amp has two channels, one for bass and one for treble, and the two outputs are mixed into a single 12inch speaker. “We were recording at Sunset in late ’67,” recalls Casady, “and Carol Kaye was using that [amp] in an adjacent studio. [Producer] Al Schmitt’s brother, Richie, who was the second engineer on a lot of our ses-

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Jack Casady

sions, told me about the amp. He said, ‘Listen, there’s this little amp that’s got a 12-inch speaker in it, and it sounds gorgeous.’ Of course, Carol was using it at low volume, with a Fender bass and a pick and a whole different approach than I had; I was using my fingers and a hollowbody bass. But I found out that when I cranked that amp up, I could get grit and sustain out of it — really nice, smooth, full harmonic sustain.” The combination of the modified bass and the unusual amp came together on the fourth Airplane album, Crown of Creation, released in September 1968. On that LP, as Dan Schwartz wrote in a sidebar to the Jackson/Jisi Bass Player interview, in 1993, “Jack is a dominating force. The Guild-overdriving-the-Versatone sound is omnipresent.” Onstage, Casady miked the Versatone and controlled it with a volume pedal, using it like an effect. His main rig at the time was a system with Fender Showman heads as preamps for McIntosh tube power amps driving “two cabinets with two 15s or an 18 or twin 12s, or whatever we put together in combinations.” While the Airplane was on tour in 1968, Jack joined Jimi Hendrix in the studio for a jam that was released as the 15-minute track “Voodoo Chile” on the album Electric Ladyland. Casady had met Hendrix at the Monterey Pop festival, and he says the recording of that track was something of a chance encounter. “When Jimi was recording Electric Ladyland,” he told Jackson and Jisi in the Bass Player interview, “we came through New York, and a bunch of musicians, including Steve Winwood, went down to see him. Around 4 AM, Jimi decided we should do some playing — fortunately, I had my Guild with me. He broke out a blues tune that we ran through three or four times and then recorded.” The tremendous sound that Casady got from his late-’60s gear can be heard to full effect on Bless Its Pointed Little Head, the live Airplane album cut at the Fillmores, East and West, late in 1968. In a 1992 “Classic Revisited” review in Bass Player, I praised the “raw power” of Casady’s sound on the album and stated that five cuts should be required lis-

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tening for all bass players: “3/5’s of a Mile in Ten Seconds,” “It’s No Secret,” “Other Side of This Life,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” and (especially) “Somebody to Love.” Summing up, I wrote that “Casady roars through these tunes like an express train, driving the rhythm with chromatic runs, punching out accents, climbing and pushing and scrambling until he climaxes with thunderous chords. He doesn’t solo, because there’s no point — the songs are really just extended bass solos with the rest of the band hanging on for the ride.” Chris Jisi transcribed the bass line from the live version of “Somebody to Love” in a 2011 issue of Bass Player. Jack offered this commentary: “When we originally learned and recorded ‘Somebody to Love,’ I felt it needed some continuous movement to add a sense of aggression, excitement, and flow. So we kind of reversed roles; instead of me laying a consistent pattern beneath lead guitar lines, I would move through the changes with a constantly evolving, connecting walking bass line against Spencer’s furious backbeat and Jorma’s accented fills. For the live album we wanted to show the kind of energy we were getting at concerts that the whole San Francisco scene was built around; we were using the songs to expand our awareness on our instruments, and ‘Somebody’ was no exception.” The live album captured the Jefferson Airplane “in absolutely top form,” as Kaukonen wrote in his autobiography, and Casady’s bass playing was the driving force. In 1969, while they were working on material for their next studio album, Volunteers, the Airplane played a memorable Sunday-morning set at the Woodstock festival. “Nobody was prepared for what it actually ended up being,” says Casady, reflecting on the event, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Along with a concert, the anniversary events will include a special exhibit at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which will include Casady’s first modified Guild bass. In 2017, 48 years after it was stolen, Casady was able to recover the bass, thanks to a Facebook contact. “So it will be on display,” he says, “along with the very shirt

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CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT

jackcasady.com CHECK IT OUT

jeffersonairplane.com CHECK IT OUT

hottuna.com CHECK IT OUT

Epiphone CHECK IT OUT

www.ribbecke.com CHECK IT OUT

aguilaramp.com CHECK IT OUT

alessandro-products. com CHECK IT OUT

Deanmarkley.com

Opposite: Casady and Jorma Kaukonen share a Hot Tuna moment.


BARRY BERENSON

Jack Casady

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that I wore at Woodstock. Isn’t that great?”

IN

the early ’70s, as the various personalities in the Airplane began to fly apart, Casady and Kaukonen decided to use their hotel-room blues jams as the basis for a band they called Hot Tuna. (Rumor has it they wanted to call the band Hot Shit, but RCA Records said no.) They have performed with various lineups in the ensuing years, but the core of Hot Tuna has always been the duo that first played together as teenagers in Washington. The band’s eponymous debut album was recorded at the New Orleans House in Berkeley, California, in September 1969, with Kaukonen on acoustic guitar and Casady playing his Guild-and-Versatone rig. It’s just the two of them, along with harmonica player Will Scarlett, and it remains an enduring classic. (The CD version, released in 2012, has 18 additional tracks along with the ten that appeared on the original vinyl LP.) The small-group, intimate setting is ideal for appreciating the sophistication and subtlety of Casady’s style, as well as his beautiful, liquid tone. It’s difficult to select outstanding tracks, as Jack plays with consistent brilliance throughout, but my personal favorites include the versions of “Hesitation Blues,” “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” and the instrumental “Mann’s Fate” that appeared on the original LP. “I’ve been very fortunate to play with a fingerstyle guitarist the caliber of Jorma all these years,” said Casady in the 1993 Bass Player interview, “because I’m constantly treated to interesting contrapuntal lines. It frees me and takes the bass out of the realm of a linear instrument … Jorma’s approach allows me to play chords, to pick up and finish phrases he starts, and to play melodies while he provides accompaniment.” Casady cites the instrumental “Water Song” from Burgers, the third Hot Tuna album, as “the best recorded example of the melodic bass concept I’ve developed in this context.” In 1971, Casady collaborated with the “dream team” of technical experts that Ow-

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sley had assembled in the creation of an entirely new kind of bass. The builders took the name Alembic — an operation that was, as I wrote in my book American Basses, “more of a concept than a company.” The key players were Ron Wickersham and his wife, Susan; audio engineer Bob Matthews; and musician/sound mixer/luthier Rick Turner. “I’d hang out and give them ideas,” says Casady. They wanted to build a bass that not only suited Jack’s playing style but was an “experimental platform” — one with modular electronics that would allow them to try different combinations of pickups and onboard circuits. “It was supposed to take only a couple months, but it ended up taking, I don’t know, something like 15 months to put together.” The result was the bass known as Alembic #1, a neck-through-body, medium-scale instrument that was the first high-end electric bass. It had a body carved from exotic woods, an elaborate inlaid fingerboard, interchangeable custom pickups sliding on brass rails, and modular circuit boards, designed by Ron Wickersham, modeled on those found in recording consoles. It didn’t look or sound like any electric bass that had ever been made before. Casady began to use it in early 1972, and it was his main bass for about three years until it was damaged and, reportedly, did not sound the same even after repairs. (For more on Alembic #1, see my Partners column in Bass Magazine issue 2.) Casady moved on from the Alembic to several other basses, including a Flying-V instrument built by Glenn Quann, and basses made by Modulus Graphite and Stars Guitars. Then, in 1985, he discovered an early-’70s Gibson Les Paul Signature Bass — a long-scale, semi-hollow bass with a single low-impedance pickup. Reminiscent of the Guilds Jack had used earlier, with the acoustic properties he preferred, the Les Paul immediately became his main instrument. In 1997, it was the inspiration for the Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Bass, which has a similar configuration and an improved pickup, designed by Casady. Originally made in Korea and later China,


Jack Casady

the Casady Bass has proven to be a popular model, and in 2017 Epiphone celebrated its 20th anniversary on the market with a special limited-edition version. In 1996, Casady was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Jefferson Airplane. The event, perhaps predictably, was not without controversy. Grace Slick didn’t attend, and the other band members rejected the idea of having Joan Osborne take her place. There was a question about who would play drums, as Spencer Dryden was no longer an active musician; that problem was solved by having Prairie Prince join Dryden onstage for a double-drum setup. In the end, the band played three songs, capped by a rousing version of “Volunteers” — and Casady stuck around afterwards to join in a jam led by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger. “That was great,” Jack says. “Pete Seeger is one of my all-time heroes.” In 2011, Casady received a Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award at Bass Play-

er LIVE!, presented by Anthony Jackson, after which he performed with Kaukonen and mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff. More honors came in 2016, when the Airplane received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, although by that time Paul Kantner, Spencer Dryden, and Signe Anderson had died. While Casady’s post-Airplane career has focused on Hot Tuna, he has been featured in a number of other settings over the years, including a power-pop outfit called SVT and side projects with David Crosby, Warren Zevon, Peter Rowan, and others. He has also played in several Airplane-spinoff projects, including a short-lived 1989 reunion that produced an album and tour, as well as the KBC Band (with Marty Balin and Paul Kantner) and various versions of Jefferson Starship. In 2003, he released a solo album, Dream Factor, that showcased 11 of his compositions including the bass tour-de-force “Outside.” And a second solo album is in the works. “I’ve got about 15 songs. It’s got some vocal bits and pieces, but it’s pri-

Victor Wooten plays bass all over the world, and while on tour he has the opportunity to play through every rig imaginable. But night after night Victor chooses Hartke amps and cabs.

© 2019 Hartke | hartke.com | victorwooten.com

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JACK CASADY’S DISCOGRAPHY “I can’t remember all the albums I’ve played on,” says Jack Casady with a chuckle. “I’ve never tried to put together a discography.” By my count, there are more than 50, not counting various compilations, reissues,

and bootlegs. Albums he has played on and artists he has worked with are listed in the following places (and there are many more opportunities to see and hear his work on YouTube):

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT

CHECK IT OUT

Jefferson Airplane Wikipedia

Hot Tuna Wikipedia

CHECK IT OUT

Jackcasady.com

If you need to know where to start, here are some suggestions: With Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow Crown of Creation Bless Its Pointed Little Head and/or the box set Jefferson Airplane Loves You With Hot Tuna Hot Tuna Live at Sweetwater, Vol. One Keep on Truckin’: The Very Best of Hot Tuna Steady as She Goes With Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland

Solo album Dream Factor

marily an instrumental album. I hope to be able to put it out sometime this year.” Casady’s work with Hot Tuna can be broken down into two periods. The first began with the eponymous live album recorded in 1969 and included five studio albums, the last being Hoppkorv, released in 1976. A year later, the group broke up when Kaukonen, as he put it in his autobiography, “just walked away” because of personal problems. After a brief reunion in 1983, Jack and Jorma were back together again for good in

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1986, touring regularly and recording a new studio album, Pair a Dice Found, released in 1990. Another studio album, Steady as She Goes, followed in 2011. When Tuna is not touring, Casady retreats to his home on the Isle of Jersey, one of the English Channel Islands. “When I’m not out there playing,” he says, “I like to do a lot of hiking and just generally keep in good health.” He also makes regular visits to teach master classes at Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio. Hot Tuna continues to keep a busy tour-


Jack Casady

ing schedule, doing both acoustic and electric shows, sometimes with guest artists. On the acoustic shows, Jack features a custom acoustic bass guitar built for him by luthier Tom Ribbecke and named “Diana” in honor of his late wife, who died in 2012. “I wanted a bass where I can sit across from Jorma playing acoustic fingerpicking guitar and it will sound like a bass, not a baritone guitar, with actual low end coming out of the instrument. We worked on it for a year and a half, and it just sounds gorgeous.” Hot Tuna’s Spring 2019 tour included four special acoustic shows to celebrate Casady’s 75th birthday on April 13. At those shows, Jack says, “I was just playing my bass guitar and doing what I like to do … I think that as you grow older, you’ve got more to say and in a different way.” The tour resumed in June, with both acoustic and electric shows scheduled for the rest of 2019.

A

nthony Jackson, in his inimitable style, summed up his praise of Jack Casady in the 1993 Bass Player article by saying: “As I’ve insisted many times, the bass guitar has few true giants — the Dickheads of the Month excepted — and Jack Casady remains in the first row.” That’s still true. While Hot Tuna may not be a hot topic on social media today, Jack remains a formidable musical presence. His influence has been wide. It can be heard in the bass players of succeeding generations who have absorbed his unique combination of a melodic approach learned from jazz and the relentless drive of the James Brown rhythm section, whether they are aware of it or not. As he looks down the road, Jack Casady has no intention of retiring or even slowing down. “People have asked me over and over, ‘What’s your best show?’ or ‘What’s your favorite show?’ and it’s really the one I’m about to play.” l

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Gear Shed

MXR

M282 DYNA COMP BASS COMPRESSOR By Rod C. Taylor

COMPRESSION HAS LONG BEEN A staple on bassists’ pedalboards, and if you know nothing else about how compression works, you know it can

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get complicated dialing things in so that it does its job but doesn’t negatively affect your tone. How you use compression depends on the genres

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you play, your personal attack on the strings, your goals with sound, and how often you switch musical genres within one set, to name just a few fac-


SPECS tors. So, when it comes to this effect, the more help the industry can give us in quickly dialing in our sound, the better. MXR’s new Dyna Comp Bass Compressor does just that. It’s based on the MXR Dyna Comp, first produced in the 1970s, which to this day remains a popular choice for compression, either for bass or guitar. The Dyna Comp Bass Compressor is a bass-focused version of the renowned pedal, contained in the increasingly popular “mini” housing. I’ve been impressed with the pedals coming out of Dunlop’s MXR Bass Innovation division; their creations are always intuitive, bass-centric in all the ways that matter, and built to withstand real-world wear and tear — thanks largely to the input provided by bassist and producer, Darryl Anders. As the bass product manager at Dunlop/MXR, Darryl stays personally involved with the research and design that shapes what the company produces, and my experience with the results has been that each is fairly intuitive, requiring little or no pre-use instruction. With that in mind, the day the pedal arrived, I took it out of the box, slapped some Velcro on the back, threw it on my Pedaltrain Nano, and headed off to a rehearsal for a singer–songwriter gig, all without trying it out in advance or referring to the manual. Right away, the controls made sense to me. Like many MXR bass pedals, the clean control blends in the unaffected tone to your liking; output determines the volume, sensitivity gives control over the sustain (which is often why I use compression with singer/songwriting gigs), attack lets you choose between a slow attack and fast attack, and the tone control tweaks the upper mids (±7dB @

1kHz). Darryl explains that they added this last feature because compression pedals tend to take a bit off the top end, and they wanted to provide an option to put it back. I added just a bit and found it adequate, especially while blending in the clean signal. In all, it took me about 90 seconds to dial in what I wanted, and then I was back to focusing on the music. This pedal makes sense fast, and that’s an important factor — even more so with compression pedals. Also of note: The pedal is all analog, the circuitry is tailored to bass frequencies and the nuances of electric bass, and its diminutive size means it takes up very little space on your pedalboard. I’ve often heard that if no one in the band comments on your compression pedal, then it’s doing its job. Kind of like playing the bass, right? If we do our job well, then people tend to just focus on the music. This pedal allowed me to do that myself. I dug how it evened out the volume and sustain of what I was playing behind the artist, which included a lot of long-held notes. Later, at home, I dove more into it on a funk and rock level, and it performed well there, too. Since I am a minimalist when it comes to bass effects (and the corresponding boards on which I mount them), this pedal’s tiny tract of real estate is perfect. In the end, I found the Dyna Comp Bass Compressor to deliver on its promise to reproduce the classic Dyna Comp sound for bass players in a way that fits our specific needs, while keeping it simple. For Darryl Anders, that’s not an accident. “I see it as our job to support the foundation of music, so in designing this pedal, we kept the role and function of bass front and center,” he says. Yeah, I can get behind that. l

M282 DYNA COMP BASS COMPRESSOR STREET $150 PROS All-analog, thoughtful features, circuitry tailored for bass players CONS None BOTTOM LINE An affordable, no-nonsense, straightforward compression pedal that does a great job without taking up much space. SPECS Analog/digital Analog Input/output ¼" jacks POWER SOURCE 9-volt battery or 9-volt DC power supply (sold separately) CONTROLS clean, sensitivity, output, tone, attack MAXIMUM COMPRESSION 36dB Contact jimdunlop.com

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Gear Shed

Strandberg

BODEN PROG 5-STRING By Jonathan Herrera

A S K T H E AV E R A G E C I T I Z E N T O picture a bass guitar, and assuming they know what you’re talking about, they’ll likely imagine something like the Fender Precision or Jazz Bass. The incredible staying power and ubiquity of Leo Fender’s original designs are extraordinary when one considers how long ago the first Fenders were loaded onto a Ford panel truck from a Fullerton loading dock, Chuck Berry gleefully shouting from the mono tube radio. Sure, there have been occasional stabs at wholesale innovation — Steinberger’s très ’80s L-series new-wave rectangles come to mind — but most manufacturers generally follow in Fender’s footsteps. There’s no arguing that the Fend-

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er formula works; it is the definitive bass for a reason. But it undeniably has some inherent shortcomings, even if we’ve all learned to live with them. First, most bass guitars don’t balance well at all. The combination of the headstock, densely packed with large tuning machines and the terminal wraps of each string, and an inadequately long upper horn often place basses’ center of gravity too far up the neck, leaving us with necks that dive floorward. Energy better used for good fretting-hand technique is instead wasted holding the neck up. Basses are also hard to travel with, given their length. You might be stunned at the machinations I’ve employed to ensure my bass makes it into a plane’s cabin with me, and not

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underneath with the roller bags and insufficiently credentialed emotional-support dogs. Many are the times I’ve watched my bands’ guitar player breeze onto a jetway unmolested, while I dutifully ignored the piercing gaze of a ticket agent reaching beneath her desk for a gate-check tag, the way a liquor store owner furtively reaches for the baseball bat gathering dust under a carton of Camels at the first whiff of trouble. Further scrutiny of the Fender formula reveals limitations of more arguable importance. Some players prefer the timbre and feel of a longer-than-standard scale, like 35” or 36”, especially if they’re playing a B-string-equipped 5-string. Yet, when it comes to the sound and feel


SPECS STRANDBERG BODEN PROG 5-STRING Pros Lightweight, portable, clear and balanced tone, ergonomics and balance are nearly perfect Cons Expensive for an Indonesian-made bass Bottom Line While it may not be for everyone, the Strandberg Boden Prog is one of the most portable and playable basses out there, blessed with a sweet and musical tone. SPECS Street $3,095 Body Chambered swamp-ash body Top Book-matched flame maple Finish Brown-stain semi-gloss polyurethane Neck Roasted maple w/12-ply carbon-fiber reinforcement Neck joint Bolt-on Fingerboard Ebony Pickups Nordstrand Audio Big Rig humbucking soapbars Electronics Darkglass ToneCapsule 3-band EQ Hardware Strandberg EGS Rev 2, black Weight 6.6 lbs Made in Indonesia Contact strandbergguitars.com

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Strandberg

of the higher strings, those same players often prefer the flexibility and timbre of a shorter scale. Another arguable limitation is the curved profile of the bass neck. If some of my students are any indication, the shape makes it really hard to keep the thumb on the back of the neck where it mostly belongs. All of which brings us to the bass reviewed here, the Strandberg Boden Prog 5-string. I belabored the points above in order to contextualize this undeniably weird-looking instrument as something more than an angular art piece. Its outré look is a consequence of Swedish luthier Ola Strandberg’s belief that ergonomics and playability are among the chief necessities on a bass. The Boden Prog is headless to eliminate neck dive. Touring with it is a cinch, too, since it fits in a guitar-size gig bag. Its fanned-fret design makes the B string long and taut and the G gooey and bright, while the trapezoidal neck profile ensures that your thumb stays in a fingerboard-opposed position. So, if the Strandberg seems to address all the conventional concerns, why aren’t we all playing one? Despite its high price and lux look, the Boden Prog is built in Indonesia. A few years ago this would have been cause for real concern, but the country is now among the world’s most prolific producers of instruments, due mostly to Korea-based Cort Guitars, which operates a factory there that’s responsible for many low- and mid-range instruments from some of the industry’s most iconic brands. Indonesia’s now welltrained and skilled workers, coupled with the precision of CNC manufacturing, diminishes significantly the chance that a contemporary Indonesian bass lives up to the negative stereotypes many still hold about Asian-built instruments. Neverthe-

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less, I’m sympathetic to those who feel that on principle, a $3K+ instrument shouldn’t be built by robots in a factory with low-wage laborers, even if the end result is indistinguishable from a bass with a more prestigious pedigree.

BODACIOUS BUILD

After pulling the Boden Prog out of its delightfully diminutive gig bag for the first time, one is perhaps struck with the sort of reflexive skepticism that greets an office drone eyeing the new ergonomic kneeling chair she impulsively ordered from SkyMall. Yeah, the blurb said it’d be better for her body than her beloved Aeron, but how in the hell does she get in the thing? I, too, was not sold until I sat down and picked up the Strandberg. It may look like it’s all points, bumps, and weird angles, but it melded itself into my body in a way few basses ever have. On my lap or on a strap, its headless design and perfectly proportioned lower bout made for exquisite balance. The knobs are thoughtfully positioned and close at hand, although I do not like the placement of the volume and blend controls. (Blend is the first in the lower row, while the volume pot is farther up and all the way back.) Once the Boden Prog is in hand, it continues to surprise. The deep trapezoidal neck profile (think of it like a triangle with the top lopped off) is strange indeed. Strandberg says the design, which is patented as the EndurNeck, has a few benefits. First, the flat surfaces provide a “more restful place for the thumb.” Strandberg goes on, “Your hand is much stronger when gripping something thick than when gripping something thin, and the EndurNeck uses this fact in its design.” In my experience with the Boden Prog, the EndurNeck

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is sort of the fanned frets of neck profiles — weird looking, intimidating at first, but after a few minutes, surprisingly comfortable. Which leads me to the next obvious idiosyncrasy: those fanned frets. As I alluded to above, fanned frets lengthen the scale of the lower strings and shorten the higher strings’ scale, ostensibly affording a player the best of all worlds. I’ve encountered many fanned-fret basses, and while I’m not personally seduced enough by the idea to add one to my arsenal, I do believe that the varying scale length has an audible impact (especially on a 5-string), and I’ve found that I adapt quickly when I’m playing in the lower registers of a fanned-fret bass. It’s only when playing up high that the arrangement’s ergonomics start to bother me. It’s particularly difficult to play accurate chords (like the typical one-fret minor 7 voicing) above the 14th fret. Then again, perhaps this is a gig-protection feature, not a bug, the bass having my best interests at heart. The superbly constructed Strandberg does much to belie the aforementioned negative stereotypes around Asian import basses. There’s abundant attention to detail throughout its construction, from the precision of its assembly to the refined sculpting of its many sinuous curves. Headless designs typically offer cool hardware as a matter of necessity, and the Strandberg doesn’t disappoint. Each string is tuned at the body end and lies in its own saddle structure, isolated from the other strings. Tuning is precise and easy, and kudos to Strandberg for a design that doesn’t require rare double-ball-end strings. The electronics package is as good as it gets. Strandberg worked extensively with Carey Nordstrand of Nordstrand Audio to ensure the pickups captured his sonic vision. They landed on the


Strandberg

humbucking Nordstrand Big Rig pickups, an innovative staggered-polepiece design intended to reduce the comb-filtering that can adversely affect the frequency response of conventional parallel-polepiece layouts. These superb pickups are mated to a Darkglass Electronics ToneCapsule preamp. Like everything else on this bass, the preamp is a bit left-of-center in that it doesn’t offer a traditional treble control, but rather a pair of peaking midrange filters, the higher of which is centered at 2.8kHz — which is low compared to the highest filter on a typical 3-band preamp.

BODES WELL

While I’m supposed to be an expert in these matters, there’s no denying that the hardest part of reviewing basses is attributing my subjective observations to some objective qual-

ities of the bass, particularly when it comes to tone. It’s much easier to report on an instrument’s construction and technology than it is to connect its sound to a particular wrinkle of its design, composition, or other fact. The Strandberg made this especially difficult, perhaps because of its unusual design. The Boden Prog is a distinctivesounding bass. I’m not sure what part of its complex cocktail made it so, but it offers a notably full-spectrum tone that embodies the oft-abused descriptor “hi-fi.” The B string is clear and focused, with excellent pitch definition and well-textured sparkle and snap. The midrange is balanced, with a slightly woody bark. Highs are present and clear, although the Stranderg isn’t at all a bright bass, likely due to the voicing of the preamp’s top-most EQ filter. String-to-string clarity and

Ultimate Practice Amp

separation is admirable, with chords and densely packed arpeggios speaking with lucid definition. The bass responded well to slap, although fans of super-zingy highs may find its more high-mid-focused personality lacking. In summary, the Strandberg Boden Prog is fascinating. Bass is an instrument that has long strained to evolve functionally, despite the noble (and occasionally successful) attempts by visionary luthiers. Its construction quirks are well reasoned, even if they combine in an instrument that I’m not sure is for me. That said, the Boden Prog is an excellent bass for anyone who embraces farsighted design concepts, especially if they’re also in the market for a bass that’s as easy to travel with as the average guitar.  l

Ultimate Bass Head

Micro-7 Lightweight (15lbs) 50 Watts 3 Band EQ $279

BP-800 Lightweight (5.7lbs) 800 Watts 5 Band EQ $799

www.PJBWorld.com

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Gear Shed

Phil Jones Audio

BIGHEAD PRO HA-2 By Jon D’Auria

WHEN PHIL JONES BASS INTRODUCED the revolutionary Bighead Pro HA-1 headphone amplifier in 2017, bass players flocked to get their hands on one. From touring sidemen wandering the globe to up-and-coming bassists in tight living spaces, there was finally a simple solution to practicing

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and tracking bass that could literally fit in your front pocket. Thanks to the constantly innovating mind of Phil Jones, PJB has just released the second incarnation of the Bighead Pro, the new HA-2 model. Boasting a rounded, sleeker casing design and a lightweight, half-

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pound body, the external changes to the HA-2 are obvious upon sight. There’s also the addition of a ¼” line out jack so it can drive another amp or even an entire recording-studio signal chain. And because PBJ knows that fidelity is paramount to serious players, the new HA sup-


SPECS BIGHEAD PRO HA-2 Street $360 Pros Super compact and lightweight, great tone clarity, powerful headphone output Cons None Bottom Line PJB improved upon the innovative HA-1 to provide the best portable practice tool for bass players on the go.

ports analog-to-digital conversion with up to 96kHz sampling and 24 bits of resolution (the HA-1 topped out at 48kHz at 16 bits), greatly improving its capabilities as a tracking interface. The rechargeable internal lithium ion battery will give you around eight hours of life from a full charge, which takes just under three hours. In putting the HA-2 to work, it doesn’t disappoint. Plugging directly into the unit for its most rudimentary use as a headphone amp, the HA-2 produces clear tones that retained the unique characteristics of each bass that I tried. Even at higher volumes (and through the vastly different sound of over-ear studio cans versus earbuds), the signal remained true and didn’t show any signs of distortion or frying. To test it further, I plugged my iPhone into the aux input to play along with a few tracks; honestly, I could have just sat idly and listened to the music coming out of there, as the sound quality was nothing short of exceptional. The sonic fun continued in using the line out to send the signal to different bass

amps. But one of the most useful features of the new HA was connecting the USB to my computer to test its recording functions. Using both Logic and GarageBand to play around, I fattened up my signal with the Bighead’s bass-and-treble EQ, making my tone sound fantastic. Not being a studio expert, my demo only covered the basics, but I imagine a studio wiz would have a serious field day with this thing. Regardless, I would be happy to use the HA-2 for any quick recording session at my desk. Considering how versatile and portable this thing is, $360 is a worthy price for one tool that can give bass players access to so many premium features. There’s a surplus of traveler basses and headphone amps on the market these days, but none has quite perfected plug-and-play on the go like PBJ has. And, offering preamp and recording features makes the HA-2 all the more valuable. Not only is its new look sexy, it’s way easier than lugging an amp with you everywhere you go. l

SPECS Controls Master volume, input level gain, treble cut/boost, bass cut/boost, on/off Jacks 3.5mm stereo mini headphone, ¼” input, ¼” line out, 3.5mm stereo mini aux input Battery Rechargeable lithium ion (up to eight hours) Headphone output power 300mW Frequency response 10Hz– 40kHz Sampling rates 44.1kHz–96kHz (A/D), 44.1kHz–384kHz (D/A); USB Audio Class 1 & Class 2 plus DSD (2.822MHz & 5.644MHz) Impedance 16Ω–64Ω Weight 0.6 lbs Contact pjbworld.com

bassmagazine.com ; ISSUE 3 ; BASS MAGAZINE

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Jazz Concepts | By John Goldsby

Make The Drummer Sound Good! 5 Tips For A Long Career

S

ince I’m closing in on five decades as a professional bassist, I sometimes get asked if I have any secrets to a long, successful career. Let’s analyze five nuggets of wisdom that will make you “the cat” in demand. 1. Make other musicians sound good. The first tip is simple. If the other musicians sound good when you’re on the bandstand, they’ll keep calling. Bandleaders will want you on the gig — you’re the bassist who inspires the band. Let’s get specific about what we can do to make other musicians sound good. When we play with a group, our attention has to be focused on the complete sound of the group, and simultaneously on the individual musical voices. You have to play with the musicians you’re sharing the stage with. Don’t bring yourself down with sob stories about your drummer who speeds up and the singer who doesn’t know when to come in; every musician has strong points, weak points,

and unusual quirks (you do, also). Those are given factors in any group. Your role is to pull things together and give everyone the space and confidence to play their best. Make the drummer sound good! When the drummer sounds good, the band sounds good; the music grows wings and flies. There are a gazillion approaches to playing drums, and your job as bassist is to groove with any of those approaches. Some drummers play metronomically. You might need to show them musically that you can play in the grid also — you support their precise rhythmic pocket — but you’re going to add some grease and humor, so that the rhythm section sounds human. Other drummers might be groove monsters, yet their time is metronomically flexible. You might need to support their groove while keeping the time stable. Your connection with the drummer is only the foundation. You have to be confi-

CO N N E C T

John always listens for the sweet spot — where and how to place a bass line to best serve the music. Check out his new video lesson series at DiscoverDoubleBass. com and johngoldsby. com.

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CHECK IT OUT

Listen to John walk the dog on the classic Bud Powell composition “Monopoly,” featuring Pasquale Grasso and the WDR Big Band.

CHECK IT OUT

The new album from Fred Hersch, Begin Again, has just dropped. Check out Vince Mendoza’s gorgeous arranging and John’s bass line on the title track.

CHECK IT OUT

Synth bass to the max! Listen to Louis Cole of Knower lay down the driving bass line on his tune “Gotta Be Another Way.”

CHECK IT OUT

Check out John playing his Sadowsky Will Lee model 4-string (flatwounds, on passive) through a Moogerfooger with Knower on a big-band arrangement of

“Around.”

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com


Ex. 1 Medium swing = 192

E7b5

Gm6 Ebm6

F9sus4

Ab13 G7#5

Eb6

9

2

3

5

Cm(maj7)

C7

F9

F9

Bmaj7

Gbmaj7 F7 Bb7

Bb7b9

5

2

Bm6

1

4 Bb7

14

2

2

1

2

dent enough in your bass playing to listen to the sound of the whole band, while you’re playing. What’s the singer doing? Is the keyboardist playing harmonic substitutions? Is the guitar player locked in with you and the drummer? Are you listening to the soloist and hearing what they are playing? You can practice this by playing along with tracks that have a great feel. You’re floating above the band, just digging the sounds, listening to everything as though you’re hearing a perfectly mixed live album. This is your zone. Everyone should feel comfortable because you are on the bandstand, in control of the foundation, and they hear groove and good vibes coming from the low end. 2. Come prepared. I’ve usually got a mixed bag of music to learn on my music stand and in my iPad. Because of the nature of the WDR Big Band gig that I’ve held for 25 years, I’m constantly rehearsing and performing our current project while simultaneously preparing for upcoming concerts. I’ve learned that

2

2

3

1

A7

3

general preparation a few weeks in advance will provide a foundation for the detailed practice that’s necessary right before a rehearsal and concert phase. You should have the music under your fingers and in your ears before you show up to a rehearsal. Whether you get a file full of pop tunes to transcribe, a cabaret show with old, dusty charts on yellowed paper, or a modern odd-meter big band opus, your job is to know the music, or at least your parts, when you arrive at the rehearsal. In the “old” days — before arrangers and musicians worked with computer notation programs, MIDI files, PDFs, and cloud storage — musicians just showed up at a studio date and found hand-copied charts on their music stands. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, I was known as a pretty good reader, mainly because I could nail most of the notes, not get lost, and let the music groove, even though I was reading. I could help a band sound good, even when we were all sight-reading. Example 1 shows a chart that I recent-

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Jazz Concepts

ly played on the Bud Powell composition “Monopoly,� from a project with bop master Pasquale Grasso on guitar, arranged by Chris Byars. This is a typical big band bass part in a traditional style of arranging: mostly chord symbols, punctuated with a few written lines and hits that support the ensemble. The harmonic movement is angular, and the main point is to lay down a solid 4/4 walking

groove. Watch the 2/4 bar in bar 15! Composers and arrangers today are emboldened by the limitless possibilities available through digital audio workstations and notation programs. I now get parts (usually from less experienced arrangers) that were obviously composed on a keyboard without much thought to the bass, often using bass lines that are just sonic placeholders for the

Ex. 2 Flowing straight eighth-notes

= 82

4

4

3

2 5

3

4

2

4

Gm7

3

23

7

5

4

2

3

2

Ex. 3 Techno jazz, straight 16ths

= 135

9

8

7

8

6

7

6

5 5

4 4 4

3 3 3

9

2 2

8

7

8

6

6

6

12

5

5

5

5

5

5

4

4

4

4

9

5 5 5 5

106

4

5 5

5

2

2 2 2 2

3 3 3 3

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3

3 3

4

4

4

4

6

6

6

5


Jazz Concepts

chart in order to hear a computer playback. Most serious arrangers put a lot of thought into composing a bass line. Many still use pencil and paper in the beginning stages of writing a score. Regardless of whether you get bare-bones chord sheets, completely notated charts, or a bunch of mp3s that you should transcribe yourself, prepare the music in advance, as much as you can. I’m perpetually practicing and preparing new music. A couple of months ago, we performed “Swing Symphony,” composed by Wynton Marsalis, with big band and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra — symphonic sounds mixed with New Orleans and modern jazz. One week later, we were grooving with the soul-bop stylings of guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist–arranger Bob Mintzer. Then we moved on to a project featuring the neo-jazz sounds of trumpeter Marquis Hill. We also collaborated a few weeks ago with Maria Schneider, a visionary of modern big band music. My parts were all on double bass — lyrically floating grooves, purposefully speeding up and slowing down, moving gracefully through odd meters and extended harmonies. The success of Maria’s music is largely dependent on her participatory conducting style and intense attention to details during the rehearsal process. The next project featured the young virtuoso bop guitarist Pasquale Grasso playing the music of Bud Powell. Last week, we performed with Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi of the group Knower. That project was all electric bass (with the exception of one ballad on acoustic), heavy on effects. This week, we’re doing a project with Joshua Redman, chamber orchestra, and composer-extraordinaire Vince Mendoza. An album-release project with Fred Hersch and Vince Mendoza follows immediately. Example 2 finds our Composer-in-Residence Vince Mendoza arranging the music of pianist Fred Hersch. The new album has just dropped: Begin Again [Fred Hersch and the WDR Big Band, 2019, Palmetto]. Mendoza’s writing style encompasses the full spectrum of jazz and classical music. He often

uses the bass as an ensemble texture, playing specific contrapuntal melodies and blending with combinations of horns. Listen to the recording of “Begin Again” (see Connect) and check out the line. My goal playing this seemingly simple part was to blend seamlessly with the horns, while creating a floating feeling with drummer Hans Dekker. Note the 16-bar rest, followed by a short, yet very important phrase beginning in bar 21, followed by a seven-bar rest, where Fred Hersch begins the poignant main theme. Counting bars and keeping the form are important aspects of playing this type of chart. 3. Embrace all aspects of time and groove. When I moved to New York City in the early ’80s, I fell into fast company with some great drummers, many of whom were practicing with the cutting-edge technologies of the day: Dr. Beat metronomes and Roland TR-808 drum machines. Drummers were imitating drum machines to achieve the perfect groove and independence, with varying degrees of musical success. Nowadays, I often see bass parts that were composed on a notation or MIDI-sequencer program using a keyboard. Example 3 shows the bass line, composed by Louis Cole, from Knower’s hit “Gotta Be Another Way.” This techno-goes-jazz bass line comes from the brilliant, two-handed synth looping that has made Cole internet-famous. To get into the music of Knower, I listened to a lot of their produced tracks, and I watched videos of their live shows featuring the muscular bass playing of Sam Wilkes and — in earlier incarnations of the group — the drum-and-bass brilliance of Tim Lefebvre. To match the full-out synth sound, I played my Sadowsky 4-string (in passive mode) through a Moogerfooger lowpass filter with a pick. The challenge with Ex. 3 is to make sure the 16th notes are right in the pocket — especially the first 16th-note rest. I found playing with a pick while muting with my right-hand palm gave me the articulation that I needed to make the rhythms pop out. The project with Knower was a blast. My goal was to embrace the sequenced, electronic aspect of the sound while support-

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Jazz Concepts

ing Louis and his beautifully over-the-top drumming. See Rule #1: Make the other musicians sound good! 4. Play as if a brilliant songwriter or a great composer conceived your part. A bass part on paper or on a screen is a visual portrayal of what music should sound like, whether it’s notated completely or only a chord chart. A written piece of music is similar to a map describing how to drive from Cleveland to Akron. You could drive quickly or slowly, recklessly or calmly, take a scenic route, stop for coffee, or just vamp and drive in circles for a while before you arrive in Akron. (Why did you want to go to Akron anyway?) The map is not the actual trip; it’s only a rough description of the trip. And, your bass line shouldn’t be merely what’s written down — it should sound like the perfect bass line. When you hear the composite sound of the whole band, it will become apparent what you need to play to make the composition sound perfect. Whether I’m playing standards with no

108

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

charts on a bop gig or interpreting the written music of top composers like Vince Mendoza, Bob Mintzer, or Maria Schneider, I’m listening for the sweet spot: where and how to place the bass line to best serve the music. Improvised lines should sound like they are thoughtfully composed, and written lines should flow like they are improvised. 5. Be yourself. I’m always listening to music, especially to hear how other bassists support a band and bring out their personality within a musical situation: Sam Jones with Bud Powell, John Hébert with Fred Hersch; Sam Wilkes with Knower, Tim Lefebvre with Knower — these are all brilliant bassists with their own sounds and concepts. I tip my hat to all of these players, with heartfelt respect. That said, when I play music, I want to sound like myself. My goal is to honor the concept of the original composer and performers, and also add my personality and experience to the mix. The most important tip for musical growth and satisfaction? Be yourself! l


OFTEN IMITATED. NEVER DUPLICATED. INTRODUCING

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©2019 FMIC. FENDER, FENDER in script, P BASS and the distinctive headstock commonly found

109

b a s s m a g a z i n e . c o m ; on Fender I S Sguitars U Eand3basses;are registered B A Strademarks S M ofAFender G AMusical Z I NInstruments E Corporation.


Jump Head

Beginner Bass Base | By Patrick Pfeiffer

Note Names, Part 2: Descending Groove

A

Patrick is a professional bassist, bass educator, clinician, composer and author, having published several classic bass books, among them Bass Guitar for Dummies, Bass Guitar Exercises For Dummies, Improve Your Groove: The Ultimate Guide For Bass, and Daily Grooves for Bass.

110

ny time someone asks you to play a major scale, where do you start? In all likelihood on the low root, playing the notes in ascending order from the lowest to the highest. Right? Same for a groove. However, it’s just as important to be able to start your scales and grooves at the top, on the upper root, and structure them from high to low. Just listen to the opening bass line of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” or the Eagles’ chorus in “Hotel California,” and you realize that these types of grooves are incredibly catchy exactly because they defy expectation — they move from high to low instead of the other way around. Which brings us to this month’s column, the second part of the lesson on how to find your way among the notes on your bass neck: using a descending groove to learn the notes. When it comes to figuring out how to play a particular groove, you want to group your notes close together. You group your notes so as to reach all of them with ease and with a minimum of motion. It’s certainly more fun and interesting to use a real groove as a learning tool for finding the notes on the neck, rather than scales or individual notes, so that’s what we’re going to do. Example 1, which we saw last time, serves as your master sheet for identifying all the notes (pitches) on basses that have four, five, or six strings and up to 24 frets (even though most basses end on the 20th fret). The 12 notes are, in chromatic order: C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, and B. The groove in Ex. 2 is descending. It starts with the root on the 5th fret of the G string, on the note C. Ex. 3 is the same groove starting on the 10th fret of the D string. Both positions use the same notes, even in the same octave. Ex. 4 shows the same groove an octave

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 3 ; bassmagazine.com

higher, starting on the 17th fret of the G string, while in Ex. 5, the groove starts on the 22nd fret of the D string (which is out of reach on most basses). All of these grooves start on C and use the same notes. You need a range of three strings and two frets in order to complete each. This means you can only start the groove on the G or D string of a 4-string bass, the G, D, or A string of a 5-string bass, or the C, G, D, or A string of a 6-string bass. Once you have a good handle on the groove, it’s time to use it in an effective practice routine for finding all the notes on your neck. Ex. 6 gives you the starting points for each root of this descending groove. Remember, you need three strings to play it, therefore you can’t start on the bottom two strings. Play the first groove beginning on the 5th fret of the G string. Without interrupting the groove, look for another C to move your groove to (hang on for as long as it takes to find that new C). You can see that there’s a C on the 10th fret of the D string. Shift your hand as seamlessly as possible to this new C and continue playing the groove without interruption. Now you’re playing your groove with the root located on the 10th fret of the D string. While playing, scan for another C to move this groove to. You find one on the 17th fret of the G string. Seamlessly shift your groove to this new position and keep playing. Now, while continuing to play, search for yet another C. There is one on the 22nd fret of the D string (which, as mentioned, may be too high for your bass). Playing continuously while you’re finding new starting points for your groove simulates a real-life situation. When you’re onstage and you’re getting ready to move to a new note, you can’t just stop to figure out where you’re going. Once you’ve explored all the available


Beginner Bass Base

Ex. 1 C

C#

3 8

1

1

3 8 13

3 8 13

5 10 15 20

17 22

10 10 15 20

22 22

0 5 10 15 20

12 17 22

4 9

2

2

F#

2

2 7

2 7

D

4 9 14

4 9 14

6 11 16 21

18 23

11 11 16 21

23 23

1 6 11 16 21

13 18 23

G

4 9 14 4 9 14 19 4 4 9 14 19

11 16 21 11

23

16 16 21

28

16 6 11 16 21

Eb

0 5 10

3

0 5 10 15

3

0 5 10 15

7 12 17 22

19 24

12 12 17 22

24 24

2 7 12 17 22

14 19 24

Ab

12 17 22 12

24

3

0 5 10 15

17 17 22

29

3 8

5 5 10 15 20

3 8

0 5 10 15 20

18 23

17 7 12 17 22

1 6 11

4

1 6 11 16

4

1 6 11 16

8 13 18 23

20

13 13 18 23

25

3 8 13 18 23

15 20

A

4

1 6 11 16

13 18 23

4 9

6 6 11 16 21

18 18 23

4 9

1 6 11 16 21

19 24

E

Ex. 2

0

2 7 12

0 5

2 7 12 17

0 5

2 7 12 17

9 14 19 24

21

14 14 19 24

26

4 9 14 19 24

16 21

Bb

0 5

2 7 12 17

14 19 24

0 5 10

7 7 12 17 22

19 19 24

0 5 10

2 7 12 17 22

20

8 13 18 23

F

9 14 19 24

1 6

3 8 13 18

1 6

3 8 13 18

10 15 20

22

15 15 20

27

5 10 15 20

17 22

B

1 6

3 8 13 18

15 20

1 6 11

8 8 13 18 23

20 20

1 6 11

3 8 13 18 23

21

1

3 8 13

0 10 15 20

2 7

4 9 14 19

16 21

2 7 12

9 9 14 19 24

21 21

2 7 12

4 9 14 19 24

22 0

11 16 21

23

Ex. 3

5

5

5

3

3

3

5

3

Ex. 4

10

10

10

22

22

8

8

20

20

8

10

20

22

8

Ex. 5

17

17

17

15

15

15

17

15

22

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Beginner Bass Base

Ex. 6 C 5

3

3

F 10 10

5

17

10

10

22

15

3 22

12 15

22

17

3

22

24

3

A#/Bb 10

8

15 15

5 8

C#/Db 6

4

4

11 11

6

15

10

7

2

20

15

27

8

8

17 20

22

8

3

8

15

13

18

11

11

23

16

4 23

13 16

23

18

4

23

4

11

9

8

20 20

10 13

F#/Gb

20

15

6

20

22

13

3 6

16 16

9

4

23

16

11

21

16

28

2

18 21

23

2

9 9

4

16

7

7

14

12

7

19 19

9 12

19

14

24

19

5 21

13

18

8

13

25

6

15 18

20

11

18 18

8

6

11

18

13

23

18

20 23

9

9

14

2 21

11 14

21

16

2

21

23

2

9

7

14 14

4 7

21

14

9

19

14

26

16 19

21

G 12 12

2 24

13

6

21

D 7

20

E

5

19

12

7

24

17

12

5 24

24

14 17

5

19

starting pitches beginning on C, move on to F. You can start on the 3rd fret of the D string, move to the 10th fret of the G string, and then back to the D string at the 15th fret; and if you have the room, take another F all the way up on the 22nd fret of the G string while happily grooving along. After F, follow up with A#/ Bb and just keep on going through the notes until you end at G. You now have played the groove in all 12 keys and in all available positions. Awesome! Remember that to play this groove, you need a range of two frets below the root, so

112

13

G#/Ab

B

6

A 2

3

22

D#/Eb

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24

5

12

10

17 17

7 10

24

17

12

22

17

29

19 22

24

don’t start it lower than the 2nd fret, which means you can use the open string for the lower octave (as in the case of A, which starts on the 2nd fret of the G string). This is a serious workout. Spread it over the course of several days or even a week if you like (at two pitches per day, it takes six days to play through all 12 keys). I promise you, the results will be amazing and will allow you to reach an entirely new level of mastery. Until next month, love, light, and low frequencies to you! l


The Inquirer | By Jonathan Herrera

Life Lessons From Steve

T

he best perk of being a longtime bass journalist — better than the gear, free concert tickets, or pre-release music — is the regular opportunity to meet and befriend my heroes. Often these encounters begin with a scheduled interview, which is itself a rather miraculous chance to ask questions unabashedly in a forum designed specifically for that purpose. Occasionally, by some quirk of interpersonal chemistry, these sometimes-stilted initial conversations evolve into something more personal and friendly. Through the repetition of this process over many years, I’ve had the rare opportunity to explore what lies behind’s a person’s success, both formally and informally. From here, I draw inspiration and wisdom that I can apply to my own life. As I said, it’s the best perk. I was reminded of this recently during a brief correspondence with one of my musical heroes, Steve Swallow. Steve and I first met in 2005, when I interviewed him for a Bass Player feature. For me, it was memorable for many reasons. It was early in my career at BP, and the opportunity seemed to exemplify this pervasive feeling of unearned luck I recall from those days. Once the interview began, I was entranced by Steve’s graciousness and humility — that, too, is memorable. Most resonant for all involved, though, was likely the photo-shoot portion of the day. Back then, when I wrote a feature, I would often shoot the accompanying pictures. I was way into film photography, and I would lug a Leica, Hasselblad, and all manner of gear to my interviews, fancying myself a budding Leibovitz. Just as we were beginning to set up in his hotel room, his partner in life and music, the genius Carla Bley, walked in the door. Surveying the room, a mischievous look

came over her face. She suggested we all walk out onto the neighboring golf course for the shoot. Thus began one of the highlights of my budding career: conspiring with Carla Bley to convince Steve Swallow to do silly things with his bass out on a golf course for an hour while I captured it all. Since that day, Steve and I have occasionally talked. In each encounter, whether via email or on the phone, I have continued to be inspired by his grace, humor, and kindness. He evinces clearly the sort of confidence that comes with having little to prove. He is able to clearly articulate his musical priorities and diligently go about the hard work of executing on them. Throughout this process, he seems to approach the world without the sort of ravenous hunger for approbation and acceptance that undermines so many musical endeavors. The reason I relay all of the above is not to boast about my good fortune, but rather to relay more broadly values that our musical culture should embrace more consistently. This music thing is difficult, particularly if you’re trying to do it professionally. There are myriad cultural and economic forces at work that are aligned to block you in every direction. Given that, it seems sadistic to further complicate the journey by being difficult, unkind, gossipy, cliquey, negative, and all the other all-too-familiar unpleasant realities within our industry. If the best path to progress on our instruments begins with imitating the masters, why should that be limited to music? Learn from the attitude of Steve Swallow and others like him. Lift others up around you, and seek opportunities to positively contribute to another person’s progress. In all things, remember this lyric: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” l

Bass Magazine Contributing Editor Jonathan Herrera is Bass Player’s former Editor-in-Chief. An accomplished player, Jonathan has been a full-time musician and producer since 2010. His latest endeavor is Bay Area recording studio Dime Studios. Catch up with him at jonherrera.com and at thedimestudios.com.

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Partners | By Jim Roberts

Anthony Jackson & Fodera Guitars

IN

Jim Roberts was the first full-time editor of Bass Player and also served as the magazine’s publisher and group publisher. He is the author of How the Fender Bass Changed the World and American Basses: An Illustrated History and Player’s Guide (both published by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard).

114

1968, a 16-year-old musician named Anthony Jackson had an idea. Why not expand the range of his bass guitar, he thought, by adding two strings: a low B and a high C? He called the concept a contrabass guitar and began to look for a builder who could make such an instrument. Late in 1974, he found one: Carl Thompson, a New York City luthier who had already done one “special project” by building a piccolo bass for Stanley Clarke. Thompson thought the contrabass guitar was a strange idea, but he went ahead and built the first 6-string bass tuned BEADGC. Jackson wasn’t happy with some aspects of the instrument, so he asked Thompson to try again. The second attempt never made it past the test bass stage, and Jackson moved on to another New York City builder, Ken Smith. Smith built two contrabasses for Jackson. The woodwork was done in Smith’s Brooklyn shop by a young luthier named Vinny Fodera. While working there one day, Vinny answered a knock at the door and met Joey Lauricella, a bassist who had been doing some sales work for Smith. Lauricella began to help out in the shop, and the two became good friends. In 1983, they decided to go into business for themselves, forming a partnership to launch Fodera Guitars. Anthony Jackson was one of their first customers. In the ensuing years, Fodera has built a series of contrabasses for him — probably the longest and most productive partnership between a player and a builder in the history of the bass guitar. While both Thomp-

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son and Smith had been skeptical about Jackson’s concept, Vinny Fodera embraced it. “I was quite enthusiastic about the idea,” he says, “and I think that set the tone for our relationship. Anthony appreciated that instead of telling him how bad an idea it was, I was eager to give it a shot.” The first Fodera Anthony Jackson contrabass, a double-cutaway instrument with a 34” scale, was delivered in 1984. It was called No. 5, because it followed the two built by Carl Thompson and the two by Ken Smith. Five years later, Fodera created No. 6, a single-cutaway instrument with a 36” scale. Since then, Fodera has built six more versions; the most recent, the Anthony Jackson Presentation II, a.k.a. No. 12, is a Hybrid contrabass with a hollow body Throughout the process of creating these instruments, Jackson has been closely involved, often spending entire days in the Fodera shop. “We were willing to try anything to please him,” says Vinny. “It was a privilege to work for him, and his ideas were quite sound. We were curious to hear the result of them in the instruments.” Jackson confirms the sympathetic nature of the collaboration. “It went very naturally,” he says. “There was never a matter of them saying, ‘I don’t understand. What are you trying to do?’ There wasn’t any of that at all.” The Fodera–Lauricella team provided Jackson with an ideal working relationship. While Vinny Fodera is a full-time luthier, Joey Lauricella is a working bassist as well as a builder. “It’s like I’m the hands and he’s the ears,” says Vinny. “Joey knows what will work


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Anthony Jackson and what won’t work.” Lauricella says that he has spent many hours sitting with Jackson and evaluating instruments during their development. “It was amazing to have that kind of relationship with him. He valued my opinion and wanted to know what I thought of his instruments. He would say, ‘How do you feel about it?’ I’d give him my feedback and we’d talk about it.” That give-and-take was vital in moving the work ahead, with the two partners evaluating the input from Jackson and helping each other decide what to do. “There was no situation where one of them was right on it and the other was sitting there and maybe not really sure,” says Jackson. “I knew what I wanted, and as time went on and I got better at expressing it, they anticipated. I was able to get them to understand what I was looking for, and when I wasn’t sure, they could put me in a frame of mind where I was sure.” Vinny Fodera praises Jackson as “the world’s ultimate bass test pilot.” Hearing him play and critique their instruments provid-

ed invaluable input for improving them. “He was brutally honest,” he says, “but he wasn’t emotional or biased. He has almost a scientist’s demeanor, in that he’s just concerned with quality of sound and responsiveness and the success of the features we were striving to create. We needed to know the truth, and he would give us very accurate evaluations.” The experience of working with Anthony Jackson for so many years has provided benefits to Fodera Guitars that go beyond the building of his instruments. “With other people where we’ve done signature models, we turned it into the same kind of experience,” says Lauricella. “That way, we could make a true signature model rather than just put a name on an instrument.” Vinny Fodera sums up the relationship this way: “It’s been the most difficult challenge, working for Anthony and trying to satisfy him, and yet it’s been the greatest education. We both feel that we were able to hone our skills more than we might have because of the high standards that Anthony has always held us to. It’s been an extraordinary ride.” l

TELL ME A B O U T YO U R BASS If you have worked with a builder to create or customize a bass to suit your playing style, I want to hear from you. Send me your story — with photos, video, sound files, or other supporting material if possible: jim@bassmagazine.com.

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