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EVA GARDNER The Queen Of Pop

JOHN MYUNG JUAN ALDERETE HARMONI KELLEY JANEK GWIZDAL A DANE ALDERSON AVERY SHARPE ABRAHAM L ABORIEL PT 2

REVIEWED REVEREND WATTPLOWER NYBW RS4-22 & RS5-22 BASSES b a s s m a g a z i n e . c oMARKBASS m ; I S S U E 4 ; LITTLE B A S S M A GMARK A Z I N E VINTAGE 1


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Contents Gear Reviews

Features

90. Markbass Little Mark Vintage 500 By Rod Taylor

92. New York Bass Works RS4-22 & RS5-22 By Jonathan Herrera

96. Reverend Wattplower By Rod Taylor

Columns 10. Janek Gwizdala

46. Avery Sharpe

16. Harmoni Kelley

54. Dane Alderson

The hardest-working man in the bass world takes us inside his new album, The Union, and sheds light on his tireless playing regimen. By Chris Jisi

From Hank Williams Jr. to Kenny Chesney, this bass slinger knows how to perform on the biggest stages of country music. By Jon D’Auria

22. John Myung

Progressive metal heavyweights Dream Theater are back with a new album, and the 6-string mastermind behind its low end discusses its conception. By Freddy Villano

30. Juan Alderete

The master of pedals and tone talks physical rehab, wild effect chains, and his latest role: playing alongside Marilyn Manson. By Freddy Villano

38. Eva Gardner

From Pink to Cher to Gwen Stefani to the Mars Volta, Eva Gardner has staked her claim as the bassist of the stars. We explore her illustrious career in this month’s cover story. By Jon D’Auria

The lion of jazz bass roars on his triumphant new album, 400: An African American Musical Portrait. By Jim Roberts

Bass virtuoso Dane Alderson discusses what it’s like playing in Yellowjackets and following in the footsteps of Jimmy Haslip and Felix Pastorius. By Chris Jisi

64. Abraham Laboriel

We conclude last month's cover story with a celebration of studio king Abraham Laboriel's favorite drummers, spiritual journey, lifelong collaborators, and soundtrack performances – as well as a peek at one of his gigs. By E. E. Bradman

80. Andy West

This month we dig into the masterful playing of Andy West on his track “Zen Walk” with our full transcription. By Stevie Glasgow

98. Jazz Concepts

Inside the Changes of “Confirmation”: A Bebop Étude By John Goldsby

104. Beginner Bass Base Right-Hand Rhythms By Patrick Pfeiffer

105. The Inquirer By Jonathan Herrera

106. Partners

Will Lee and Sadowsky Guitars By Jim Roberts

Departments 4. From the Editor 6. 10 Questions With Fat Mike 8. Spins, Streams & Downloads Cover Photo by Jossue Mendoza

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From the Editor Finding Eva

Bass Family,

L

ong before album streaming, iTunes, and digital downloads, I remember the night of June 23, 2003, when I rushed out to the local record store at midnight to buy the Mars Volta’s debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium. For younger readers out there, we used to have to actually leave our homes and drive to music shops to cop the latest records when they were released, sometimes fighting lines of fans in the process. But regardless of how it was obtained, I listened to that record on repeat for months on end. I knew that Flea had recorded the bass parts, with a couple of tracks featuring Justin Meldal-Johnsen on upright, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned that most of the bass lines I idolized on the album were actually written by Eva Gardner. I was blown away that a pop-centric player could unleash those brilliant parts that I had spent weeks learning note-for-note. She

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quickly became one of my favorite players to follow, and before long, every time I turned on the TV I would see her playing on SNL, award ceremonies, daytime talk shows, or late-night musical guest slots with Pink, Gwen Stefani, Cher, Moby, and Tegan And Sara. We’re so honored to have her grace our cover this month and for you to learn more about such a diverse player — she is a consummate professional at the highest level, not to mention one of the nicest people you’ll meet in the music realm. Additionally, we’re thrilled to have in our pages the other main player behind the Mars Volta and so many other artists, pedal and gear aficionado Juan Alderete, along with Dream Theater’s mighty John Myung, Janek Gwizdala, Harmoni Kelley, Fat Mike, and Dane Alderson, plus the conclusion of our Abraham Laboriel piece that began last issue. This edition is also jam-packed with plenty of other artist features, transcriptions, reviews, lessons, and insight from the experts on all things bass. As always, hit me up with any comments you may have (jon@bassmagazine.com), as we’re always listening. Cheers to the future of bass!

Jon D’Auria Editor-In-Chief


Volume 1, Issue 4 | 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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Fat Mike

What music have you been listening to lately? I wish I had time to just listen and enjoy music, but I’m too busy making my own. Music has turned into a bad habit for me; I need to write all the time. That’s why I’m into BDSM. Can’t think about writing a song when two redheads are beating you. Oh, and the Beatles.

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ALLAN SNODGRASS

10 Questions hen it comes to punk rock, well, Fat Mike is punk rock. After founding and fronting the heavily influential punk institution NOFX in the early ’80s, Mike Burkett went on to create Fat Wreck Chords, one of the most successful indie labels in the U.S. He’s known for creating the punk supergroup cover band

Me First & the Gimmie Gimmies, and has just released the first full-length album as his alter ego Cokie the Clown. He also created a Broadway musical, Home Street Home, and has launched a brand of panties marketed for men called Fatale. So, as you can see, Fat Mike makes for one interesting dude. Luckily, he took a break from his punk rocking and panty peddling to answer our 10 Questions.

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What’s one element of your playing that you most want to improve? I wish my bass playing helped me remember the lyrics to my songs. I remember bass lines, but not second verses. The night before a tour, I put on my rubber gas mask and zip it up so I can’t see a f’ing thing. I have to play every song perfectly that way.

If I make a mistake, I gotta start over. If I get it right, it’s a woman in shiny leather pumps in a nitrous oxide hit. I practice a lot the night before a tour. What is the first concert you ever attended? When I was eight, I saw Donny and Marie [Osmond] in Vegas.   

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What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended? GG Allin at the Covered Wagon in S.F. in the ’80s. When he spit his own diarrhea into the crowd, I hid behind Jello Biafra [Dead Kennedys]. Jello makes a good shit shield!

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If you could have lunch with any bass player today, alive or dead, who would it be? Jay Bentley from Bad Religion. I just like Jay a lot, and we’ve never talked about bass playing in the 30 years I’ve known him.


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If you could sub for a bass player in any band, who would it be? It would be Steve Soto of the Adolescents. My dream actually came true last month, but too bad Steve couldn’t be there to see it.

What was your first bass? A Hondo II.

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass? When I was 16, Mike Knox told me to use a .60 pick. The thicker the pick, the sharper the note you play. It’s just physics. I think it’s amazing how many bass players get that wrong.

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What the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you during a gig? My girlfriend used to pee in my vodka drink when I would play big festivals. That wasn’t embarrassing though, that’s just hot! That one time I fell off the stage five times ... that was embarrassing. I realized I was wearing my gas mask. Duh!

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If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Playing music. Hey, that’s what I already do.

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Spins, Streams & Downloads

Avishai Cohen Arvoles [Razdaz Recordz] The Israeli-born bass giant returns in a quintet setting with pianist Elchin Shirinov, drummer Noam David, trombonist Björn Samuelsson, and flautist Anders Hagberg for an inspiring set of originals strong in melody and rhythmic invention. “Simonero” sets the course with a falling bass line that sets up striking ensemble counterpoint. The title track is rife with baroque ornamentation between bass and piano, while “Childhood (for Carmel)” seems descended from a Romantic-era church. “Face Me” dances on angular accents within its 3/4 meter and boasts Cohen’s virtuous bowed solo. Elsewhere, “Elchinov” rides an odd-time piano montuno, huge chordal leaps, and a killer groove solo. The swirling harmonies of “Nostalgia” evoke many a musical mood and age. And “New York ’90s” summons Cohen’s global breakout period. All told, Arvoles is a candidate for bass album of the year. —Chris Jisi

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Invisiblemann Volume 12: Echos of a Funked Memory Factor [Invisiblemann] Bay Area bassist and songwriter Kenney James has just released the 12th installment of his Invisiblemann album series, which features his funky slap work and a wide range of grooves set over downtempo, soul, and fusion tracks. The album comes to life with the swagger of the opening cut, “Kickback,” but it really hits its stride with his funky plucking on “Lost Culture.” “Think About Funk” does more than ponder it, as James lays down layers of deep slap with rumbling tone. Invisiblemann just keeps getting better and better with each new album, so we’re excited to hear what he brings with Volume 13. —Jon D’Auria

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Philip Bailey Love Will Find a Way [Verve] Timed with Earth, Wind & Fire’s 50th anniversary (which will include the band’s Kennedy Center Honors award this December), vocalist Philip Bailey releases his first solo effort in 17 years. The disc’s ten tracks soar between soul and jazz on Bailey’s golden voice, which is backed by a bevy of potent bassists, including Derrick Hodge, Carlitos Del Puerto, Alex Al, and Christian McBride. Curtis Mayfield’s “Billy Jack” comes bumpin’ out of the gate with a new, brighter hiphop feel, riding Hodges’ syncopated subhook (he returns later with sympathetic support on Robert Glasper’s Ramsey Lewis-like instrumental “Sacred Soul”). Cut during Chick Corea and Steve Gadd’s Chinese Butterfly sessions, Corea’s Return To Forever vocal track “You’re Everything” gets a funky samba feel, with Del Puerto’s sinewy 5-string filling the open spaces. Alex Al’s big-toned upright anchors a swinging cover of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.” McBride (on upright) drives the Afro-6/8 “Stair-


Jump Head

way to the Stars” (which he co-wrote) and sets a deep 5/4 pocket on a soul–jazz adaptation of Abbey Lincoln’s “Long as You’re Living.” —Chris Jisi

Mark Ronson Late Night Feelings [Columbia/RCA] The über-producer largely abandons his retro-soul sound (Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars) for a set of club-mix pop songs about heartbreak sung from the female perspective — for which he enlists nine chanteuses, including Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, and Camila Cabello. Although synth bass is the dominant color, frequent Ronson collaborator and groove ace Nick Movshon is onboard, racking up four co-writes and lending soulful bass guitar to “True Blue,” “Why Hide,” and the first single, “Late Night Feelings.” Elsewhere, Alissia Benveniste elevates “Pieces of Us” with muscular, in-your-face slapping. —Chris Jisi

Theo Katzman & Friends My Heart Is Live in Berlin [Ten Good Songs] Vulfpeck drummer and co-frontman Theo Katzman has created a strong following of his own with his solo career, so when he decided to take his show on the road to Europe, it was a no-brainer to bring along Vulf’s Joe Dart. Katzman’s songwriting style varies greatly from Vulfpeck, but his classic rock and soul vibe is the perfect vehicle for Dart to lay into the pocket and display his monster playing. On the easily enjoyable live album, Dart steals the show with masterful moments on each track, most notably with his locking in on “Hard Work,” his soulful licks on “Break Up Together,” and his rewind-numerous-times spotlight on “Four Fine Gentlemen.” —Jon D’Auria

The Raconteurs Help Us Stranger [Third Man] Jack White has achieved a wild level of success thanks to his fame with his rock duo the White Stripes, but he’s also been able to reach a different audience altogether with his other band, the Raconteurs. Tapping into more of an alternative/indie blues-rock sound, the band’s third album, Help Us Stranger, features the powerful and tasteful playing of Jack Lawrence. His rolling bass lines throughout the album help support White’s vocals and guitar (a strong contrast to the bass-less sound of the Stripes). From flowing lines to grinding riffs, Lawrence proves he’s the secret weapon of the Raconteurs on every track of the band’s most consistently solid album yet. —Jon D’Auria

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CHANGE BEGINS AT 40 Janek Gwizdala Takes A Collective Approach For The Union By Chris Jisi

C

an there be any doubt that Janek Gwizdala is the hardest-working man in bass? Sure, there may be in-demand utility anchors with more gigs and sessions, but when it comes down to plying his art and his brand, Janek’s passion, energy, and output are unmatched. He’s arguably the first new-media bass star, with an omnipresence on social media that he has been cultivating since the dawning days of MySpace. The South London, England-born Gwizdala is the very definition of bass entrepreneur, balancing recordings and tours as both a leader and a sideman, an online education empire, vlogs and podcasts, and generally being on the leading edge — whether the discussion is playing concepts, gear, or the bass world’s inner circle. (We won’t go into his gifts as a tennis player and magician.) For me, the Janek experience began circa-1999 at Berklee College of Music, when I was in Boston to do a story on the famed school for Bass Player. I attended Bruce Gertz’s advanced jazz harmony class and happened to sit

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Janek Gwizdala

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT

Watch Janek perform “Light Years” (with embedded transcription) from the album session.

Check out all of Janek’s social-media pages and websites.

CHECK IT OUT

janekgwizdala.com

next to an engaged student who, in a whisper, explained to me each of Gertz’s complex theories before he finished presenting them. Janek next moved to New York City, where he quickly established himself as an elite member of the new millennium’s Young Guns of the Bass Guitar movement shepherded by Matt Garrison, and marked by 5-string basses with a high C string, fingerstyle technique, and a new level of soloing and chording proficiency. Gigs with Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Wayne Krantz, and other Gotham heavies followed. Gwizdala switched coasts for his current home base of Los Angeles in 2010, claiming his space in the city’s burgeoning contemporary jazz movement, yet he somehow remained a presence on the New York and European scenes, as well. Known for working quickly and diligently on his own projects, Janek has already amassed a back catalog of ten albums. For his 11th effort, The Union, Gwizdala has shaken things up, taking on a producer for the first time — none other than one of his musical idols, John Patitucci. It’s part of a new chapter in the life of the 40-year-old, whose summer also included marrying L.A. doubler Chelsea Stevens [www.chelseastevensmusic.com], whom he met at a NAMM Bass Bash. What led to you to have John Patitucci produce the record? After ten self-produced albums, I thought, Maybe it’s time for me to get a producer — to have a voice that you trust, that can be objective. I couldn’t think of anyone I trusted more than John, who I’ve known since 2007, and he graciously accepted the role. His support and focus were invaluable. We had a great conversation the night before the recording, in which he talked about how you need to believe wholeheartedly in what it is that you do, and to be completely inside the music, with no external distractions. I’ll admit, when you’re in the studio with one of your heroes, who you grew up listening to, there’s definitely a barrier to break through to play in front of him and be that exposed. But the mode of relaxation John brought to the

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session, as well as his ability to convey how honest I needed to be whenever I played, not only got me past my initial fear, it ultimately brought out the best in my performances. Was there a thought about having him play on the record? At one point it was an option for one of the tracks, but we came up with other ideas that were more suited to the song and the project. I’ve gotten to play with John before, and as much as I would have loved it, it would have been for all the wrong reasons. He was there as the producer. I felt, if you want to play with John, do a record with him and write for it. Don’t try to fix an issue you’re having by using him as a solution. I can’t help making the connection between John producing and this being a jazz record with electric bass. That was the concept. I wanted to make an acoustic jazz record with electric bass, and I was certainly aware John has strong feelings about the topic. He and I agree that the electric bass can be a comping instrument in an acoustic jazz setting and make the music swing hard and feel good. Plus, I’ve always loved the sound of the electric bass and the bass notes on an acoustic piano blended together. The sound of your bass is round and warm, yet dialed in, in all ranges. That’s what we were going for, and it’s a key part of how I envisioned this record. I recorded at the Bunker Studios in Brooklyn, run by my friend John Davis. John is both a great engineer and a great bassist who plays in JoJo Mayers’ band Nerve. He’s done seven albums with me, and he has my complete trust musically and sonically. So with the two Johns’ input, I was in good hands. I played my Mattisson signature 5-string [tuned EADGC] recorded both direct and through a miked Aguilar AG 500 head and GS 212 cabinet, and we favored the rig sound. You’ve spoken before about a conversation you had with Patitucci a few years back that changed your entire approach. That was huge for me. We were hanging out and he handed me his Yamaha semi-hollow 6-string, and the action was so high I


Janek Gwizdala

could barely get a note out of it. I handed it back to him, and he played it like a violin! I realized there were some serious technical deficiencies in my playing and a lack of scope and range in my sound. So I started raising my action a quarter-turn [of the trussrod] every six weeks, and I’m getting there. My action still isn’t as high as John’s, but I’ve expanded my technique and touch possibilities by a good 70%, as well as the sounds I can get out of the instrument. Your hand-right placement seems key, especially when playing jazz. In general, I use a lot of different right hand placements, and for walking I’m often over the neck. I spent a good deal of time there on this record because we have the acoustic piano. John [Patitucci] was very aware of that throughout the session, and we were constantly working on where the right hand was for the overall production and sound. He could hear things in the speakers that I couldn’t hear in the cans. He’d say, “You’re a little too far up the neck; come back an inch or two. It needs a little more punch.” It was very interesting to have that kind of feedback. How did you select the ensemble? I’ve known [pianist] Ruslan [Sirota] since we were at Berklee together, and we’ve been touring a lot with [saxophonist] Bob Reynolds. We have a musical rapport; we’re both inspired by artists like Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, and Michael Brecker. I wrote with his harmonic style in mind. We came up with some of the piano/bass unison ideas for my tunes at soundchecks on the road with Bob. I met [trumpeter] Philip Dizack on a Bob gig in L.A. in 2018, and he blew me away with his playing and his sound. And I’ve known [drummer] Clarence Penn since I lived in New York. We played together with Randy Brecker and did some other projects and recordings. His sound palette is expansive, and the dedication and engagement he brings to a session is incredible. I had hired Clarence and Philip for a gig I did in New York last fall, and I thought, these guys and Ruslan would make a great record. It’s truly a collective effort with this band and the two Johns.

How did you come up with the material, and what was the recording session like? I had attempted to do a trio record last year that didn’t work out, so I had two or three songs from that. The rest I wrote in the last few months, mostly on piano, which is why the melodies are not so bass-specific, and why there are countermelodies in the left hand, doubled by bass. Once I gave everyone the tunes, I flew to New York in March for a quick rehearsal to see what was working and what wasn’t. Then I came back in June, we rehearsed in John [Patitucci]’s basement the night before, we cut the record live at the Bunker the next day, and I mixed on the third day before flying home to L.A. in the evening. The record begins with the ambient track “Constance.” Originally, that was the B section to “Your Secret Lover,” which I had kind of awkwardly crowbarred into the tune because I didn’t think there was enough to the composition. John’s idea was to remove the B section from “Lover” and use it as an insert somewhere on the record by playing it rubato. We did that and the track came out beautifully, so we decided to open with it, because it was a cool way to get listeners into the music. You can go anywhere from an ambient track, up or down. I had a similar situation with “Mi Cieolito,” which was the last song I wrote for the record. I had the 12-bar form, and then I tried to force a B section in, and my wife, who is a great bass player, assured me that it worked perfectly fine as a 12-bar piece, and to leave it be. On “Tell Me,” you play the melody and take the lone solo; that’s easily the earliest you’ve ever featured yourself on one of your records. I know! It’s not like me at all. Credit John’s producing again. I didn’t want to play this melody, and I sure didn’t want to blow over the difficult changes I had written. But John believed in it very much because of how I was phrasing the melody. He said, “This is your moment to be featured on a melody.” He also coached me through the solo, reminding me to trust my melodic side, and that I didn’t have to burn through the changes. Most of the tracks have one solo, no track is over five

L I ST E N The Union, 2018; Last Minute World Tour 2017, 2017; American Elm, 2016. With Bob Reynolds: Quartet, 2018. With Peter Erskine: Dr. Um, 2016.

GEAR Basses Mattisson Series 1 Janek Gwizdala Signature 5-string Strings “I’m between companies right now and actively looking for the right player– string-maker relationship.” Amps Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 with two Aguilar SL 112 cabinets Effects TC Electronic Ditto Looper, TC Electronic RPT-1 Nova Repeater, Electronic Miura Guitars M2 Compessor/Limiter, Boss OC-2 Octaver, Boss PS-5 Super Shifter, Dunlop Volume (X) Mini Pedal, Frederic Effects BugCrusher

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Janek Gwizdala

minutes long, and the record is under 40 minutes. It’s like a vinyl Cannonball [Adderley] record from the ’50s — I wanted to capture that spirit. “Tourbillon” has some subtly shifting time feels. My concept was to let Phil and Ruslan choose the tempo for their solos. So at the end of the head there’s a slight pause and the new tempo begins. Phil chose to bring the tempo back a bit, and Ruslan pushed it forward a little. The title refers to an addition to a mechanical watch that enables it to keep accurate time no matter what angle the watch is at. The ballads “End of the Story” and “Your Secret Lover” have a Mike Stern flavor, both in the writing and guitaristic components. Absolutely, Mike is a huge influence, especially his great ballads, like “Wing and a Prayer,” “What Might Have Been,” “Bird Blue,” and many more. “End of the Story” started as a bass solo piece, with a sort of John Mayer-ish guitar opening and ending. Then I wanted a big, ECM trumpet sound for Philip’s melodies. “Your Secret Lover” is very influenced by the relationship between the bass note and the melody note — the way Mike uses them as a compositional tool — and there’s a hint of Sting in there, too. “Lover” is just me and Clarence playing live, with my accompanying chordal part via my TC Electronic Ditto Looper on some of the track. “Light Years” has a memorable melody and an interesting bass sound. I always try to write vocal-like melodies that can be easily sung. As with “Tell Me,” I didn’t want to play the melody, but it wasn’t quite clicking on piano or trumpet, so I tracked the bass line first and I overdubbed the melody and my solo, which is the lone overdub on the record. As for the bass line, I used my Boss OC-2 Octaver — one of the original Japanese-made units — with the [dry sound] level and oct 2 knobs turned off and the oct 1 knob turned all the way up. The fat tone translated well in the mix sitting under Clarence’s kit, which has more of a lighter jazz sound than a heavy fusion sound.

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“The Creatures” is the other ambient, rubato track. That was completely improvised. I was messing around with my effect pedals and using my volume pedal to swell in different sounds, and John [Patitucci] came in to ask me how I was doing it. I figured if he thought what I was doing was hip, let’s roll tape and see what we get. We did one pass, with the guys lightly adding appropriate colors on their instruments. I had three parts going: Lows through the Boss OC-2 Octaver, mids through a Frederic Effects BugCrusher, and highs through a Boss PS-5 Super Shifter. The title track is rich in dynamics, with an open feeling. I love using dynamics in writing, like the band dropping out for the piano interlude halfway through the head, or Philip soloing with only Clarence in support. When I write I often think ahead to playing the tune live. How can I write the tune so that we’re not going to get bored playing it night after night? Or, how do I write something that isn’t too restrictive in terms of a lot of notes or the form, so we can keep it loose and stretch out? As for playing open, I got a lot of that from my best teacher at Berklee, Hal Crook, who taught us various ways to play free on the form and other music-opening concepts. Plus, Clarence plays with people like [trumpeter] Dave Douglas and [keyboardist] Uri Caine, who are masters of playing freely within the music. Let’s discuss your signature Mattisson basses. I met Anders Mattisson through Henrik Linder at a NAMM show, and in three weeks he built a prototype that is still my main bass three years later. My concept for the instrument is that it have an organic sound but great tone over the full range, which for me is a 5-string with a high C string. I like economy of movement, so I went with a 32” scale. It has an alder body, which is chambered, an ash neck, and a maple fingerboard with 28 frets — which gives me a high E on the 28th fret of the C string. There’s also a zero-fret for a more consistent sound between fretted and open string notes, and a Hipshot Xtender [detuner] on the E string. The pickups are Aguilar Super


Janek Gwizdala

Doubles with proprietary electronics; there’s an active/passive switch and a passive tone control. It will come in both a handmade model and a lower-cost standard model. We’re also working on a 4-string signature model. What advice can you offer to bassists who want to use social media as a career tool? It’s all about building an audience and keeping them engaged. It starts with having a story, that story being honest, and finding an audience who can relate to your story and how you can help them. If you genuinely want to help others, that’s what translates, that’s what people respond to, and that’s what makes any social-media presence successful. It’s not about the number of followers. So many people have a bloated number, like 400,000 followers, yet when they post a photo it gets 50 likes, so their level of engagement is basically zero. The key is having the highest percentage of your audience engaged. When it comes to platforms, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat —

it’s really a matter of what works for you. But if you’re marketing or selling something, the most important item to have is a traditional mailing list. Having people trust you enough to give you their email address and allow you to send them unsolicited emails with what you’re offering is invaluable, because social-media platforms can be so passive, and people can flick through those and not notice what you’re doing. Give away something of value in return for the potential customers’ email address. That will build your mailing list and be the most valuable thing you have going for you as a business. The last key is, you have to love the work. Whether it’s practicing bass, growing your Twitter feed, or creating product, you have to be in love with it. The second you don’t love it, you’re bullshitting yourself and your audience. I can’t imagine my life or career without my social-media side. It has literally saved me on many occasions, and it has brought me so much happiness and so many opportunities.l

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Kenny Chesney

RHYTHM, MELODY & HARMONI

Harmoni Kelley dishes on playing with one of country music’s biggest artists and the challenge of dialing in arena-size tone By Jon D'Auria |

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Photo by Lindsay Kate Moore

n 2012, Harmoni Kelley landed the high honor of joining country star Hank Williams Jr.’s band, so she packed up her things and made the move from Austin, Texas to Nashville. After a brief stint with Williams, she flourished in her new scene and went on to play alongside James McMurty, Bonnie Bishop, and Holly Williams. She busily was making a name for herself in Nashville’s bustling music scene when one day she got a call from her friend, guitarist Kenny

Greenberg. He told her that Kenny Chesney was looking for a new bassist and urged her to audition. After meeting the band for an instrumental audition and to make sure her personality fit the bill, Kelley went back home and waited for a callback. Weeks passed, and Kelley began growing nervous that she didn’t land the once-in-a-lifetime gig. But finally her phone rang and she was called back for another audition, this time with Chesney in attendance. The only problem was that the

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ALISTER ANN

Harmoni Kelley

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Harmoni Kelley

gig called for a 5-string player, which is something that Kelley had not attempted before — so she scrambled to get her hands on one, and she woodshedded as much as she could before she got to the audition space. Kelley walked into the room and was immediately greeted by Chesney before promptly being ushered onto the stage where the full band was set up in front of the entire road crew. They quickly had her put in some makeshift in-ear monitors — another first for her — and then clicked into the first of six songs, right around the time that Kelley’s nerves were peaking and her heart rate doubled that of the click tempos. Calming herself and playing to her best ability on a 5-string with loose in-ears, she was startled when Chesney waved his arms in the air and called a halt to the performance. He grabbed the rest of the band and brought them into the hallway, leaving Kelley alone on the stage holding her bass. Certain that she had ruined her chances for the bass chair, her thoughts turned dark, which only intensified when Chesney and the rest of the band returned with crossed arms and grim looks on their faces. They stood motionless at the front of the stage and remained silent for what seemed like forever. The tension broke when Chesney burst into a huge smile, proclaiming, “I’m just f’ing with you — you’re in the band!” The room erupted and everyone circled around and embraced Harmoni in what would be one of the best and most altering moments of her life. Now five years later, she’s a full-fledged member of the band, with integral musical and vocal moments in the live shows, and she has become a fan favorite of the adoring crowds that fill stadiums to see Chesney’s epic performances. And with Chesney hard at work in the studio currently recording his next album, Harmoni is gearing up to hit the road once again, equipped with her 5-string Fender, which now feels like home after her initial trial by fire with it. Harmoni has become very adept at adapting on the fly, as each show’s capacity crowd keeps growing, and every venue presents new challenges in projecting her tone, which she is very particular about. But

more than meticulous, she’s just grateful to have landed her dream gig with one of the biggest stars of country music. What was it like playing your first big show with Kenny? I thought I was prepared going into it. I was not. Our guitarist told me that he had played big gigs before playing in this band, with Bob Seger and other big artists, but when he stepped onstage at a football stadium with Kenny, it took his breath away. The first time I played with Kenny was a hometown show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and it was his birthday, so all these celebrities were there, from Joe Walsh to Taylor Swift. I had never been on a stage that big, I had never worn in-ears before, I had never played a 5-string live before, and I just had to go out and perform with all of those factors. But talk about a rush — it was one of the wildest experiences of my life. They were right. It definitely took my breath away. Now that you’re seasoned at playing big shows, what goes through your head during live performances? It’s been a really good lesson for me as a player to get outside of my comfort zone and not worry so much about what I look like and what I’m doing. It’s all about taking chances. I’ve always been used to standing back by the drummer and just holding down the rhythm and focusing on the music in a supportive role, but for this I’m expected to go out and run around and go out to the crowd riser and jump all over the place. When you’re running around and jumping up and down it can be really hard to maintain the precision of your playing. It’s not like just standing there and focusing on the notes anymore. And as a bass player, you want to hit the strings with consistent attack, and that can be hard when you’re jogging through the crowd. It takes a lot of practice, but you get better at it over time. Playing venues the size that you do, how do you make sure your bass tone doesn’t get lost in the immensity of the arenas? I was just discussing this with our frontof-house guy, Chris Rabold, who is world-

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Harmoni Kelley

class at what he does. He told me that his biggest struggle is always bass. Playing huge football stadiums and arenas are super tricky to dial in, because you have to make this low, rumbling frequency extend to all corners of that huge space. Playing a 5-string makes that even trickier, because you have to project that low B and make it heard, not just a rumbling. I never want my tone to be muddy, and I don’t want to get lost in the mix, because the bass lines are so important to these songs. There’s a fine line between being really warm and buttery and getting lost. And you have to make it punch and cut through without making it too trebly and clicky-clacky. And that, my friend, is the biggest challenge of playing a big arena as a bass player. So I leave the sound that’s out in the crowd up to Chris, and he’s amazing at it. Luckily for me, I have in-ear monitors, so I hear everything I’m doing crystal clear. I’m good so long as the fans hear it, as well. How much does your gear selection play into aiding your stadium challenge? It helps a whole lot. I’ve never been a super-technical gear person when it comes to my bass, like I don’t have a huge pedalboard or anything, but Chris and I try a lot of combinations to make it work. Every rehearsal we test a few different things for my tone. I have my SVT-VR onstage with an 8x10 cab, and then I have an Ampeg Portaflex in an isolated cab on the side of the stage miked up to blend with my main mix, and then he sends it all through a Neve preamp and an Ampeg SCR-DI pedal. It’s a big science to dial in my tone. I’m still such a student, and I ask so many questions regarding what we can change to better my tone, because I’m so curious. There’s no such thing as perfect tone, but I want to get as close as possible. It’s a constant struggle for us bass players; we’re always chasing that ideal sound we hear in our heads. You were playing Music Man basses with Kenny and switched to Fenders a couple years back. What led to that change? I’ve played Fender basses my whole life, but the bass player who had played for two

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decades before me had used Music Man basses the whole time. Kenny told me Music Man would give me anything I wanted to play, but it’s my choice to play whichever type of bass I choose. It was an opportunity that I didn’t think I’d have again, so for the first two years of playing with Kenny, I used a Music Man through a Peavey amp. It was awesome and sounded great, but after going to NAMM a few years in a row, I got in touch with the Fender and Ampeg people, and that felt like home to me, so I switched back. You really can’t go wrong with that combo. And that’s not to knock Music Man and Peavey; their stuff is awesome. This setup just fits this sound better for me. How does your playing technique impact your sound? One of my favorite things to do to get a specific tone is to use palm muting and pluck with my thumb. That changes dynamics so much, and it works really well with acoustic songs. Otherwise, I don’t really think about my technique while it’s happening. It becomes instinctual after playing for a while. I am conscious of where I’m striking the string with my finger, though, whether I’m using it closer to the nail or closer to the pad. That can really change up the thickness of the tone you’re getting. Usually it just happens when I’m playing live and I don’t have to think about it. What’s it like working with Kenny as an artist? He’s not at all what I expected from somebody at that level of fame. You can tell that he comes from a small town; nothing was handed to him, and he didn’t just put out a #1 hit and blow up overnight — he worked his way up. They started playing in flatbed trailers and built up to small clubs and rodeos and finally grew a fan base that loved him. That really comes across when he’s onstage. I’ve played my fair share of gigs with artists who don’t really acknowledge the band onstage or interact with them, which always makes for a weird dynamic, and it comes across in the music. Kenny is the exact opposite of that. He has the “we’re in this together” mentality. I


Harmoni Kelley

love getting to sing with him throughout the set, and we even have a song that’s a duet for the two of us. He appreciates his bandmates so much and always lets us know it. What is the principal role of bass in country music? To me, it’s like we’re laying a really comfy but solid bed for the rest of the music. Kenny has done away with a lot of traditional elements of country music like a lap-steel guitar. And we only have fiddle on a couple of the songs, but otherwise he gets away from that twang and more into a rock feel. In traditional country music you have the fiddle, lap or pedal steel, a banjo, and a million harmonies and backup vocals. With so much high range going on, the bass has to be solid and sit under all of that. You’re mainly pulling a variation of a walking line, the 1–5, or a swing type of line. Bass isn’t busy in country, so I’m not going to noodle all over this music. I want to lock in with the drummer and make sure that it’s solid. A lot of times people are dancing, and I’ve played my share of two-step gigs, and if you’re not tight, the dancers get pissed. What other style of music would you be playing if not country? If I had my druthers and I could play in any style — and don’t go telling Kenny this — it would be with a R&B/soul/funk band. There’s something about that type of music and the bass role in it that’s very appealing to me. It’s super slinky and super solid in all the right ways. I’ve been listening to a lot of D’Angelo’s Voodoo [2000], with Pino Palladino on bass, and it makes me want to cry because it’s so good. It’s hard to even explain in words. That shit is just so good to me. How and when did you first start playing bass? I’m a huge Guns N’ Roses and Duff McKagan fan. Stylistically, I’ve never really emulated him by using a pick or a chorus pedal, but he was the reason why I started playing bass. It was in that time of being a teenager when you have posters on your wall and you watched MTV videos all day and when you’re into a band. It just takes over your entire world. My best friend Robin and

I were such big GnR fans, and she came to me one day and had that classic conversation where she said we should start our own band. We had never played instruments before, but we decided that I’d play bass because I was so into Duff, so we did. I got a bass for Christmas when I was 17. My dad and I went to a music store in Austin, and we picked out a Mexican-made Precision with a burgundy finish and white pickguard. I got a small Peavey TNT combo amp, and I would sit on the floor in my parents’ living room and listen to records and learn all of the bass lines. I had always been good at hearing bass; that’s just what my ear always went to in songs. I never went to school, or took lessons. I always just taught myself by ear, which is the same thing I’m doing still. If it ain’t broke, I suppose. l

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Dream Theater

JOHN MYUNG Balancing Act By Freddy Villano

“W

ith all of these songs, there’s definitely balance, in terms of concise ideas, without going off on tangents too much,” explains Dream Theater’s John Myung. “I think it’s a new balance that we’ve found, in terms of creating a record that’s commercially viable, but doesn’t sacrifice anything creatively. Everything is more concise and to the point, which is cool, because it allows us to get to different types of ideas on our record. The result is a really diverse album that breathes. It’s cool that we were able to go in that direction.” Myung is referencing the material on Dream Theater’s latest opus, Distance Over Time, released earlier this year and once again produced by DT guitarist John Petrucci. Recorded at Yonderbarn Studio in Monticello, New York, it’s the band’s 14th studio album — and it’s one of their most fine-tuned to date, featuring a more “back-to-basics” approach than their previous efforts, particularly the 34-song, hour-and-a-half concept

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album The Astonishing [2016, Roadrunner]. Distance Over Time finds DT challenging the notion of what it means to be, perhaps, the preeminent progressive-metal band on the planet. New tunes like “Untethered Angel,” “Barstool Warrior,” and “S2N” are a testament to songcraft, with their more condensed and “concise” formulas. These otherworldly prog-metal tunes still feature signature musical virtuosity on the parts of Myung, Petrucci, and their cohorts, drummer Mike Mangini and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, but the vocal melodies are intoxicatingly catchy, even commercial. James LaBrie’s vocal hooks are easily memorable, and the songs themselves are surprisingly short. Clocking in at just under an hour, Distance Over Time is only DT’s third album not to feature any song longer than ten minutes. Myung has been with DT since its 1985 inception, when he, Petrucci, and original drummer Mike Portnoy were students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Originally called Majesty, they would cycle through


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John Myung

Myung with Jordan Rudess

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a singer or two before releasing their 1989 debut under the Dream Theater moniker, When Dream and Day Unite. Although he played 4-string on the debut and a Spector NS-2 4-string on the sophomore release Images and Words [1991, ATCO], John would thereafter become synonymous with 6-string basses, using them on all subsequent albums and tours. He mostly employs a three-finger right-hand technique and often peppers his bass lines with tasteful tapping passages and colorful melodic and harmonic interplay. His tapping solo on “Metropolis—Part I: The Miracle and the Sleeper” (Images and Words) put him on the map as a virtuosic pioneer in the bass community.

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On Distance Over Time, Myung continues to explore the creative bounds of his instrument. His intro motif on “S2N” is a jacked-up musical nod to Steve Harris and Iron Maiden (think “Innocent Exile” on steroids), while his nuanced fretless approach on “Out of Reach” reveals deeply connected and accurately intonated melodic sensibilities. And, of course, there’s the shredding. Unison passages between guitar, bass, drums, and keys on tunes like “Untethered Angel” will boggle the mind and send most of us straight back to the woodshed. “This album just tells me that the best is yet to come,” attests Myung. “It’s time to do the best stuff that we’ve ever done. So, we’re


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John Myung

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in a very good place right now. Everyone is so psyched about playing.” We talked to Myung while he was at home on Long Island, preparing for the Distance Over Time Tour, which kicked off on March 20 at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California. As always, he was thoughtful and considerate when discussing his approach to the making of Distance Over Time. Your tone on Distance Over Time keeps evolving and getting better. Every time I don’t think it can get any better, it gets better. Thank you. There are so many things involved when it comes to getting a really happening sound. I have to give Jimmy T, our engineer, a lot of credit. On this one, he was the main engineer, so I just kept an open mind to what Jimmy thought would work especially well as a DI source, and he recommended using some of Rupert Neve’s mic preamps. We wound up using something called the 5024 Quad Mic Pre for the main DI signal, and that worked out fantastic. Did you mic any amps, or was it mainly just the DI? A lot of elements were brought in. I brought in the Ashdown bass amp. The last time we used that was on Train of Thought [2003, Elektra], and there was something about that amp and the power that it had. Listening to that record, I wanted to bring back that vibe. We miked a 4x10 [Ashdown] cabinet. I’m actually bringing an Ashdown rig with me on tour, so that we can create that tone live, as best we can. Did you come up with a bass sound that you used on the whole record, or did you modify it from song to song? We did some experimentation, but apart from the fretless that we used on “Out of Reach,” I pretty much did the whole record with just two basses, and they were configured the same. They were both double-hum [humbucker] configuration. There’s just something about the double-hum combination that feels right when I’m playing — the attack, the top-end and the lows … just everything seems right.

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What about pickup selection? There are four settings that I can get. But it was pretty much one consistent tone throughout the whole album. The biggest factor that added or subtracted to the tone was either the pickup selector or whatever altered tuning I was in. What altered tunings did you employ? There are basically four tunings. One option was everything tuned a half-step up, and another was everything normal [standard tuning]. Then there’s everything tuned a halfstep lower, and then, last, a whole-step lower. The bonus track, “Viper King,” was tuned down a whole-step, so that took a lot of tension out of the strings, which presented its own interesting dynamic, in terms of getting the tone to sound right. “Viper King” has more of an industrial metal feel and sound. It’s just really low. It’s amazing how much everything changes based on how much tension you’re working with. This was the first record where I really had a strong appreciation for doing stuff in altered tunings. The color translates so differently when the tuning is altered. What do you mean by color? On “Untethered Angel,” everything was tuned up a half-step, and I think that had a lot to do with the vibe of that song and the direction that it took. So, there’s definitely something to be said for altered tuning. It’s another level of useful creativity, if you have time to explore it. “Untethered Angel” is particularly melodic and catchy. I wonder if tuning up a half-step has something to do with the tune’s melodic timbre. That’s exactly what I was talking about — it’s complementary. The melodies are kind of pulling everybody in. I also think it’s is one of James’ best vocal performances ever. On “Untethered Angel,” there’s a unison riff, but afterward you’re landing only on specific notes, rather than playing the full riff. How do you make that kind of discovery, where you’re accenting certain notes to create a counterpoint? That particular part is reminiscent of the type of riffing you’d hear on an Al Di Meola


John Myung

record. It starts out with everyone in unison. When the bass part becomes simpler, it’s just acting as the glue to keep everything together. Basically, that’s a matter of zooming into the fast riff that John is playing and seeing what note is actually passing at [any given] point in time, and kind of pedaling on that, or accessing that note so it makes sense in context. It’s not just going for it and hoping it works. I mean, there are times when that’s cool, but this is really worked out, where we magnify the notes and extract the music from within the riff. So, you’re reverse-engineering the riff and finding the exact notes you want to land on with Petrucci? Exactly. It’s a way to explore the creativity of an idea. If the idea is kind of electrifying and fast, “Okay, well, what do we do with this?” One of the best things to do is figure out a pulse that you want to work with, and then translate that passage through the pulse, and slow things down, getting the key notes that are happening, based on the time that’s going

on underneath the riff. You’re just pulling out key hints and notes within the energy of the initial riff, and then it starts taking shape — it starts speaking to everybody in the room, and everyone starts to vibe on what’s going on. Then we have a general sense of where it should go. Other things start falling in, and we’ll record, and listen back, and then comment, and change things around if necessary. Immediate feedback is one of the great things about working with other people. That kind of live spontaneity has a lot of freedom, and there’s a creative flow to it, too. It’s such a natural way to write, and that’s what’s cool about being in a band and writing with people. It’s a lot easier than trying to do all of that by yourself — it’s like you can’t. Everyone has their instrument, has their role. Everything is happening in real time, so that’s cool. The record sounds very much like you guys are playing together. Even if you did overdub stuff, there’s a palpable energy that feels live. That’s what we were going for. We were

From left: Myung, Mike Mangini, James LaBrie, John Petrucci, and Jordan Rudess

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John Myung

going for that oneness and capturing that live energy, where everything is just working. We were in a beautiful barn, and we had a little demo workstation to record everyone quickly. As ideas were flowing, we were recording with this little workstation, where everyone had one or two channels going up to it. We were capturing the vibes and the room mics were capturing the energy in the room. That’s how it went down. It was a very cool thing, for us to be in this live, spirited environment. Plus, the barn had big windows — there was light. It didn’t feel like we were inside. It was farmhouse and a farm, and we just lived on site. It was great. “Paralyzed” is a cool track. What’s the story with that tune? That was the second song we wrote. There are actually two versions; the second version made the record. It was a riff that Mike brought in, very powerful and aggressive, with a Rage Against The Machine kind of energy. We wrote it in a day or two. Then, after sitting with it for a while, over the weekend when we came back, John thought differently about it and suggested that we revisit it, but with a different approach. It had more to do with the intro and how it starts. It is a really heavy, almost “pick-oriented”sounding riff, if that makes sense.

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The riff sits kind of foreign for me, in the way the notes open up and it being a halfstep down. It was definitely something that taught me a different way of finding riffs and musicality on the bass. However, the basic theme of this record sits very well on a guitar and electric bass. It feels really natural, and I think when that happens, it carries a power that’s really important to have. “S2N” starts out with an amazing bass intro. Is that something that you brought to the band? That was the last song we wrote, but it was the first riff that we worked on. It took a while for it to settle in. We started developing it, and then we took a week break before we reconvened. When we came back, we hadn’t demoed it — it wasn’t recorded — so we lost what we had, and we just kind of moved on. We came back to it a few other times, but it would always just spark another song. So, in a way, it was a riff that we’d work on, but it would spark something else, that took on a life of its own — that wasn’t really related to that riff. I think it sparked four other songs! So, how did you eventually circle back around to it? We still had a bonus track to cut. So, we revisited the riff again, and John suggested, “Why doesn’t the song just start with the bass riff?” I didn’t really hear it going that way, but he was like, “It could be really cool, like Iron Maiden’s ‘Wrathchild’” [Killers, 1981, EMI], where the bass riff starts the song. So, I played it, and we started developing it. Then it turned into the song that it is now. How are you playing that intro? Is it a tapping thing? No, I’m just playing it like a bass. The interesting thing is that it was the last song I recorded. I noticed, as we were working with on it, how the tone was changing. By the end of the song, at the end of the session, I wasn’t happy with the sound anymore. It turned out the batteries in the bass were going, and so I put new 9-volts into the bass, and it all came back to life again. On “Pale Blue Dot,” there’s an effect at about four minutes or so that sounds like it’s coming from the bass.


John Myung

No. Anything that would sound like that in that song would be coming from the keyboard. That’s another Mike Mangini idea; it’s very powerful. The concept for that song was to do something more reminiscent of what we’re known to do, in terms of just instrumental playing. The concept was to revisit the kind of playing we did on Images and Words — to go on that sort of instrumental tangent. Did you use your Moog Taurus pedals anywhere on the record? No. I wanted to, but it didn’t seem like we needed it because there wasn’t anything that lent itself to using it in the studio. When we go into pre-production [for the tour], I might break it out and see if I can work it in for actual live shows. In terms of what I needed, and what was happening in the studio, I had it ready, but the way everything flowed, I didn’t find any creative need for it. Are you using effects anywhere else on the record? Or is it pretty much just the Music Man through the Ashdown and Neve? I don’t know if you can hear it much, but at the very ending of “Pale Blue Dot,” it turns very spaciously melodic, and I’m holding long, sustained root notes. There is a distortion pedal on that. We were experimenting with all these different types of distortion on it. I’m not sure exactly what distortion patch was ultimately used, but that’s the only point on the record where I wound up using any sort of effect. So, the record, in terms of my sound, is just bass. There wasn’t much need for any effects or any sort of processing. It was just one of those records. What was it about “Out of Reach” that made you grab the fretless? It’s a very ballad-oriented song that lends itself to that sort of vibe. It’s a very open song, and there’s something about a fretless that sits well, because it’s so smooth sounding, based on the inflections and the emotion that you can kind of get out of it. The song has a very new-age kind of feel, which I thought lent itself well to fretless bass. Is the fretless a Music Man Bongo, as well? It’s a custom fretless they made for me years back. I think it was made during the

Dramatic Turn of Events album [2011, Roadrunner], so I’ve had it for a while. I haven’t used it a lot. But when I do get to apply it to songs, I definitely love it. When I pick up a fretless, I find it requires a different approach. It makes me think about a song differently and how I’m approaching it. It definitely has its own soul. It’s different from a fretted because of the type of sliding you can do and how each note is shaped. With the fretless it’s more about the shaping of a sound, because you don’t have the frets doing that for you, and you get more emotion, more soul, out of it. I definitely have a strong appreciation for it. I wish I could use it more — maybe I will. When I do use it, it’s for mellower, ballad-oriented songs and poppy, new-age kinds of things. “Barstool Warrior” has some amazing references to both Yes and Jethro Tull, and you play a cool countermelody, along with Jordan, in the middle of the tune. My ear was drawn to it because of the interplay between the bass and the piano. Yeah, that track came out very cool. We grew up listening to bands like Marillion, Yes, and Genesis. The Genesis influence comes more from Jordan. When it gets to the breakdown, that was actually a suggestion made by John. He thought it would be cool to do a bass melody. I wanted to come up with something that was not necessarily busy, but something that filled the moment, that just flowed into another part. Then it goes to the whole next level — the U.K. influence, with the syncopation that’s going on. Then the next part goes into something that reminded me of the Who, but that’s kind of abstract. The songs still feature the same adven­ turousness and instrumental musicality DT is renowned for, but they’re more concise. You just get on with it. We changed it up. We did something different. We wound up getting a diverse album of ten songs that you can listen to within an hour. It’s got that balance of creativity and also commercial appeal with the strong melodies. It has just the right balance for us, you know? l

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Jump Head

Marilyn Manson, Big Sir, Halo Orbit

JUAN ALDERETE Life Sucks... And Then You Play! By Freddy Villano |

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Photos by Smitty

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J

uan Alderete is a master of versatility. From the progressive rock of the Mars Volta to the alternative hip-hop of Deltron 3030 and Dr. Octagon to backing up singer/songwriter Emily Saliers (Indi go Girls) and blasting out high-octane punk-rock shows with actress Juliette Lewis, Alderete has performed in just about every genre of popular music over his 30-plusyear career. But it hasn’t always been that way. Alderete cut his teeth as a “band” guy, first in ’80s shred-metal act Racer X and then the Scream, a blues-rock outfit that included one-time Mötley Crüe singer John Corabi. “It was always my own band, so it was basically my rules — meaning how I approached playing bass and songwrit-

ing,” he recalls. “When those two bands ended, really, the only way to do shit was to play for other people. It was a lot of figuring out how to get work.” Clearly, he’s figured it out, as his ethos has led him to some unique gigs, most recently a coveted post in Marilyn Manson’s band. He joined in November 2017, did a year-long tour in the States and abroad, and is now contributing to Manson’s forthcoming record, which is being produced by Shooter Jennings. When he’s not on tour, he’s also been successfully squeezing in original projects. His collaboration with vocalist Lisa Papineau in Big Sir is two decades strong now. It’s a passion project that allows him to focus on his sub-

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Juan Alderete

L I ST E N 93punx, “Modern Day Slavery” (Vic Mensa, Travis Barker & H.R.) GEAR Basses Warwick Streamer Stage I, Warwick Idolmaker, Fender ’70s Precision, Fender Custom Shop “OG Raider” Precision Pickups Nordstrand NP4 Amps Ampeg SVT 4-PRO Cabs Ampeg SVT-810E Strings Ernie Ball Slinky round-wounds and flatwounds, and La Bella tapewounds (all .045–.105) Accessories Hipshot Xtenders Picks Dunlop Tortex 2.0mm & .73mm Effects Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor, EarthQuaker Bit Commander Analog Synth, EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V3 Phaser, EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird Tremolo, Meris Enzo Multi-Voice Synthesizer, Mesa Boogie Throttle Box, MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe M83, Red Panda Tensor Time Warp, Source Audio Nemesis delay, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus

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lime fretless technique and nuanced art-rock songwriting chops. The more recent Halo Orbit is a similar original collaboration, featuring guitarist suGar Yoshinaga and drummer Mark Guiliana, which explores a 21st-century combo of electronic, hip-hop, funk, and soul. Meanwhile, Vato Negro continues to be his outlet for effects-oriented bass playing. And, he continues to review products at his wildly popular website pedalsandeffects.com, which is dedicated to his passion about otherworldly soundscapes. Juan has been off the road since the Manson tour ended in November 2018, rehabbing some long-overdue wrist surgery. Ten years ago, he took a spill while biking home from the gym, but he’s toured so much in the past decade, he hadn’t had time to properly address the injury. “I got lit up on a pothole in South Pasadena and flew in the air. I put my hand out and broke my wrist. I toured with a cast on, with the Mars Volta, and never really stopped touring, so it didn’t heal right.” We spoke to Alderete at home in Los Angeles, gearing up for rehearsals with new Marilyn Manson drummer Brandon Pertzborn. They are heading out on the road this summer on the co-headlining “Twins of Evil” tour with Rob Zombie (as they did last year). He’s also been contributing to the new Manson record. “So far, I’ve played on four or five cuts, which I hope will make the record. Of course, I hope I’m on every song.” As usual, Alderete was candid about his approach to rehab, landing the Manson gig, and his transition from “band guy” to hired gun. What’s the rehabbing process been like? I had the surgery right after touring ended in November. I couldn’t play for two months. In the third month, I started to play. Four months, I was frustrated. Six months into it, I started to have a breakthrough. Jon Button from the Who told me it took him a solid year to feel good about his wrist. What’s been the most challenging aspect? After touring with Manson, I realized my finger playing was really suffering. So, I had to get the wrist cleaned out. Pick playing was

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never an issue. Now, after six months, I can do shit again. In November [2019, a year after the surgery] we’ll see where it’s at. I practice two to three hours every day, with my fingers. It’s not that I don’t have speed or endurance or strength — it’s just coordination. It’s like I have to retrain my brain. It’s clumsy. You’ve been utilizing active electronics and thumb picks as part of your rehab. Active because you don’t have to dig in; the electronics hype the bass, so you don’t have to play as hard. I’m using thumb picks because the thinner the pick, the more hand strength it takes to grip. The thicker the picks, the easier to grip, and the thumb picks are easiest because the thumb mostly holds the pick [because of the wraparound]. I understand you got the Manson gig through a referral from your ex-bandmate Tyler Bates. At the time, my dad was really sick, and it was pretty heavy on the family and me. A lot of decisions needed to be made. I was helping my family deal with my dad, trying to extend his life. So, I was at home a lot. Deltron and Octagon were gigging here and there, but not a ton of work. And then, my pop dies and at that same time, Tim Lefebvre recommended me for this gig with Emily Saliers. The next month I was on tour with Emily dealing with that. Then Tyler called and said, “Hey, would you be interested in playing with Manson?” What was touring with Manson like for that first year, after going through such a lifechanging event? We headlined some big festivals in Europe. He’s really big over there. It was a lot about trying to get a feel for it, but for anyone who’s lost a parent, the grieving is crazy, so it was just hard to take it all in. I’d go do these festivals, playing in front of 200,000 people, and there’s like this heaviness to everything. Everything was really emotional. Between the Emily Saliers and Manson tours, I never had any time to deal with it. My family was grieving, and I wasn’t there for them, but that’s the story of my life. As a touring musician, you miss everything: weddings, funerals, birthdays. It’s crazy what you sacrifice. People don’t really realize it. But I know my dad would’ve


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Juan Alderete

had it no other way. He’d have said, “You go out there and tour and do what you love,” which is what I did, but it wasn’t always easy. Didn’t Manson recently lose his father, as well? I think his dad passed six months before mine, so he was going through it as well. It was pretty crazy. Were you able to incorporate effects into Manson’s live shows? When they asked if I wanted to do this, and I said yes, Tyler was like, “I want you to be comfortable — do what you want. I want you to bring your sound.” I’m always a little wary when anybody says, “We want you to do what you want.” I think I learned after the first try that that isn’t necessarily the case. So, for the first rehearsal, I brought 12 or 15 pedals, and they were like, “It doesn’t sound right.” So, I adjusted a few things and I’m thinking, “This sounds huge!” but they still didn’t think it sounded right. What adjustments did you need to make? I looked at the bass tech and said, “Hey, do you have all the gear that was used before me?” And he said, “Yeah!” So, I said, “Can you hook it up?” We took a little break, he set it up, we came back in, I started playing, and they were like, “Fuck, it sounds amazing!” People always want what they’re familiar with. You can never just come in and change shit. You have to ease it in. And so, after a few months, I started bringing more pedals and adding different sounds in between songs. But I pretty much stuck to the script of heavily distorted bass. The only thing I might do is chop it up with tremolo. I use the EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird and just chop up my signal. Are you playing mostly with a pick in Manson? I recorded with my fingers [on the forthcoming record] because that was what they asked for, which was awesome, but when I joined the band they were like, “You’re always going to play with a pick,” and I was like, “Okay, cool.” But in the breakdowns, I have to go to fingers. That way I can retain some low end and be dynamic. With the pick, you lose low end because hitting hard is what clips the low end out. But when you lighten

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up, the bigness comes back. I think I’m comfortable enough in this situation to trust that I can do what I feel is appropriate. I’m not shredding up there. I’m not trying to stand out. It’s a gig and I just want it to be great; I want him [Manson] to be stoked and comfortable. And I’m super animated, so there’s a lot more theatricality than me just focusing on bass technique. What did you adopt from the previous bass rig? A Mesa Boogie overdrive that they always used. I let Mark Lubetski, the tech, run it because he’s been there longer than me. He’s a top-notch tech; he’ll listen to the room, he’ll listen to the stage, he knows now what I like. It has a lot to do with EQ, as well — you have to do your best to fight all of the obstacles that every room gives you. I think there are some musicians who understand these concepts, some that don’t, because maybe they live with in-ears and no amps, but we’re using live amps. We’re not using in-ears. So, I deal a lot with phase cancellation, the room fighting you, bass traps — you just get all that onstage. How and when do you figure out how to combat those issues? When I’m at soundcheck. I’ll walk around to find the sweet spots, where I can hear myself, and then find where the trouble spots are, so I know not to go toward that area because I’ll get lost. If I stand in certain spots onstage, and it’s a bass trap, I don’t hear myself, so I know to not kick it in that spot. If there’s something time-specific I need to hear, like drum counts or whatever, I find a place to stand where I can hear it. This is stuff that’s vital to survive a gig — knowing how a room is going to come back at you. The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco is an awful room for bass. I’ve never had a good show there. I played there a bunch with the Mars Volta and Deltron, and every time it’s like, “Uh oh, here comes a shitty gig.” It’s just a bass trap; there’s no low-end, no resonance, nothing. Tell me how you went from being a band guy to getting gigs as a hired gun. I learned it in Pet [’90s band with guitarist Tyler Bates]. They called SWR looking for bass


Juan Alderete

players, because they were having hard time finding someone. They went through all these shredders, and nobody got the gig. I went in there with the attitude of, “I’m going to play exactly what’s on this record.” And they loved it. That’s exactly how you approach gigs. Why do you think nobody else cut it? I think all the other guys were going in with their own style and placing it upon this band, whereas I went in there thinking that the band made a record, and they want to sound like that record, so that’s what we should represent. Look, I was trying to work, so I just figured I would ease my shit in. And you always do; you eventually ease it in. When I went out for the Mars Volta, I did my best to cop what Flea did on De-Loused in the Comatorium [2003, Universal], and then eventually, the situation became my own. On the second record, Frances the Mute [2005, Universal], I’m playing fretless, I’m playing a ton of effects, I’m shredding. I created my shit within that.

Is it the same with the rap artists you work with? With Deltron, I listen to what’s on the record and then eventually, live, I find where I can use a bit more effects. With Dr. Octagon, I’m adding in tons of effects because I played a ton of effects on the record. It’s my gig now because [Dan the] Automator trusts me and he knows me now. When I get called to do the rap shit, they don’t call me because they want me to sound like a studio dude. They call me because they know I’m going to give them some weird angle. Those are the kinds of situations, like with Frank Ocean, I can get as wild as I want. But that’s what they ask for. On a gig you’re usually helping out. What’s the takeaway from understanding that you’re “helping out”? The most important thing about this situation is understanding that the artists are insecure in a lot of ways, so you’ve got to make them feel comfortable and earn their trust … and then you can do your thing. l

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Pink, Cher, Gwen Stefani

PLAYING FOR THE STARS

Bass triple-threat Eva Gardner unveils an album that reveals the musical mind of someone who’s anchored everyone from Cher to the Mars Volta By Jon D’Auria |

F

Photograph by Bianca Buder

or two years straight, Eva Gardner has been relentlessly traveling the globe to deliver pop star Pink’s larger-than-life acrobatic stage show to the masses, in support of her 2017 release Beautiful Trauma. While television appearances, sold-out arenas, jet-lagged flights, and long bus commutes have been the bulk of Eva’s life for the past 12 years with Pink, today she has a rare day off at home in Los Angeles where she met us at her family’s pub and restaurant, The Cat & Fiddle. Located just blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the British pub has a welcoming and nostalgic feel, which has been preserved by Eva and her family since the original, early '80s Laurel Canyon location. Right on time, Eva appears in the doorway and happily greets us before we post up at a table to talk shop. But her downtime is short-lived, as she hops up to jump behind the bar to pour a couple of beers for some newly arrived patrons before jetting behind the line with her sister,

Ashlee, to expedite a pair of tickets. Not exactly the kind of behavior you’d expect from a first-call bassist to the stars, but Eva is the furthest thing from a diva. We sit down and start chatting about bass gear, her current tour, and her new journey into self-recording before taking off to check out her home studio and rare gear collection. Stepping into the parking lot, I scan the area trying to locate the dazzling red or pink convertible sports car that one would imagine a pop figure like her to drive, but instead she walks us over to her 1998 Volvo wagon, which appears to have racked up mileage from multiple treks around the globe. “I love this car,” she smiles. “It’s just so damn reliable.” A fitting synopsis — given that Eva’s reliability has made her one of the most in-demand players in music. As we weave through the narrow roads of the Hollywood Hills, she tells stories from her childhood about growing up with a rock-bassist father, Kim Gardner, who toured con-

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Eva Gardner

L I ST E N Eva Gardner, Chasing Ghosts [2019] GEAR Basses Fender Squier Eva Gardner Signature Precision, Fender American Vintage ’62 Reissue Precision, Fender American Professional Precision, Pfretzschner double bass, Kay double bass, Moog synth basses Rig Ampeg SVT-2PRO, Ampeg SVT-VR, Ampeg Early ’70s SVT, Ampeg Heritage B-15, Ampeg PF-50T, Ampeg SVT-810AV, Ampeg SCR-DI Pedals Ampeg SCRDI, Pro Co Turbo Rat Distortion, MXR Bass Fuzz Deluxe, MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay, MXR Bass Compressor, MuTron Octave Divider, Mu-Tron III Envelope Filter Strings Rotosound Swing Bass 66, Rotosound Jazz Bass 77 Flatwounds, Rotosound Nexus Bass

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stantly with his bands The Birds, The Creation, and Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. He also worked with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Rod Stewart, Bo Diddley, Deep Purple, and many others. She starts pointing out houses that belonged to Madonna and her father’s close friend John Entwistle. We pull up to her home to be greeted by her dogs Willow and Holly, who follow her every step as we make our way to her music room. Posters and memorabilia from her many tours with Pink, Gwen Stefani, Cher, Moby, Tegan And Sara, and Veruca Salt line the walls, along with some of her own impressive paintings that she creates when she has the time. But the real treasures lie in her gear room. Numerous Ampeg rigs, including one of the very first SVTs ever made, fill the room along with a stunning collection of basses. Among them are the ones she inherited from her father, her very first bass which went on to become the design for her Fender Signature Series model, and her Pfretzschner upright. She picks up her dad’s old Fiesta Red Precision and starts playing licks that would impress even the flashiest of NAMM-boothers. But you won’t be hearing any of those chops on an arena stage anytime soon. Having studied music at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and going on to graduate cum laude with a degree in ethnomusicology at UCLA, Eva knows that a tight pocket and a solid groove will get you much further than rapid shredding ever will. Then, upon request, she sits at her computer and pulls up the old demos from the Mars Volta’s 2001 debut, Deloused in the Comatorium, that she wrote the bass parts for. It’s quite the contrast to hear her dig into to such frantic parts with a wildly gritty tone, and it’s even crazier to think that Flea ended up recording the exact parts she wrote for the album. She then puts on her newest creation, her very first release as a solo artist, Chasing Ghosts. The five-song EP is a beautiful mix of pop vocals, catchy hooks, big rock riffs, and naturally, booming bass. Between the charging rhythms of the opening track, “Forever Is Never,” and the instantly singable melodies of her

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first single, “Dirty Bird,” you can tell that not only is she comfortable in her own skin as a songwriter, but she has all of the makings of being a pop star on her own. It makes sense seeing how she has spent her life supporting the best of the best, while appearing on every late night show, every big awards show, and even gracing the Saturday Night Live stage multiple times. Artists and fellow bass players love Eva for her tireless work ethic, her attention to detail, her loving personality, and her spotless playing on electric, upright, and keybass. She constantly has to turn down landmark gigs, for which she gladly recommends fellow players. With an early morning ahead – she's preparing to head back on the road for the next leg of the Pink tour – we check out a concert that evening at L.A.’s famous Troubadour and catch up with fellow bassists Stu Brooks (Dub Trio), Dug Pinnick (King’s X), and Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots). As we’re leaving the venue, a few fans catch a glimpse of Eva and try to get her attention. “Ava, Ava!” they shout at her. “It’s Eva,” she replies with a smile. “The name thing happens a lot,” she explains, but she doesn’t seem to mind it at all. That’s all right — they’ll know her name soon enough. How does it feel to step out from the supportive role and take center stage with your own material? It wasn’t intuitive, but a lot of my past experiences definitely led up to this. I was in a couple of bands that I co-fronted early on, so I was used to being behind the mic and playing bass. I’ve been singing backup for bands for a long time, so the feeling has gotten more familiar. I’ve written a lot of songs, too. All of that has led up to this, and it feels more natural than I thought it would. What led to you deciding to release your own album now? I’ve always written songs with bands and other musicians in a collaborative setting. I would have my own ideas, but I’d record them onto tape 4-tracks and would never touch them again. I finally got some proper


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Eva Gardner

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT

Watch the music video for “Dirty Bird.” CHECK IT OUT

See Pink Performing “Barbies” Live at the 2018 CMAs. CHECK IT OUT

See Eva with Gwen Stefani Performing “Misery” on SNL. CHECK IT OUT

Eva with Moby performing “The Perfect Life” on Conan.

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recording gear, which made it easy for me to write and finish ideas, so that propelled me to start collecting and compiling songs. My setup is also really portable, so I can take it on the road and set it up in hotel rooms and on the bus. Before I knew it, I had a bunch of songs that came together. What was your writing process like? It depended on the song. Some of them started out with lyrics, sometimes it would start out with a beat, sometimes with a bass, and even a guitar at different points. Every song came together differently. You have technical bass chops, but you gravitate toward riffs on this material. When I write, I feel like the songs that naturally come out are the ones meant to be written at that time, so where I’m at with my writing right now is what produced these songs. Maybe my next record will be more bass-centric or more technical, but for now what needed to come out was more about the riffs, melodies, and the lyrics more than any flashy stuff. I actually recorded a lot of my bass parts in a friend’s studio in Joshua Tree [National Park] — I was playing around with the bass parts and branching out and playing some flashy stuff, and I just decided that it didn’t fit as well. It’s fun to go crazy and play tricky, technical stuff on bass, but I went with my gut and kept my parts tight. You get some big tone, especially on “Forever Is Never” and “Dirty Bird.” How did you dial that in? I used a lot of layering of tracks to get bigger sounds. I would track a couple of clean takes and then a couple of gritty ones and stack them on top of each other so they would have a bigger presence. Since it was all happening in hotel rooms on my days off on tour, instead of at my home where I can get easily distracted, I was just in my own musical world, and it allowed me to really focus and play with sounds. It was a lot of fun and a big learning experience. Chasing Ghosts definitely has pop elements, but it also has a distinct alternative-rock feel. What was inspiring you when you were writing?

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I grew up listening to a lot of guitar rock. I went to countless shows in high school with loud drums, rocking guitars, big rhythm sections, and very riff-driven music. That’s what came through the ether for this, and I grabbed at that and put it to paper. Do you have plans to play these songs live? The idea is to play shows for this record, but I haven’t been able to slot anything yet with how full my touring schedule is right now. Nothing is set in stone, but I will definitely get a band together to play some shows. I’m also continuing my writing, and I have songs that didn’t make it on this EP that will get on the next EP. You’re in the middle of a two-year tour with Pink. How’s this experience been for you? It’s been one of the best times I’ve ever had on the road. There have been so many moments when I’ve had to pinch myself, like playing two sold-out nights in a row at [London’s] Wembley Stadium for over 75,000 people each performance. I’ve been playing with this band for over 12 years now, so we’re all such a close family and we have such a blast together. I’m so appreciative to be able to do this and have this supporting cast along for the ride. Describe the role of bass in Pink’s music. There’s a rock vibe with this band, where in the studio the production might have more of a pop or dance sound. When we bring this into a stage setting, we give it a genuine liveband feel, and all of that really comes into play with the rhythm section. We have a super hard-hitting drummer in Mark Schulman, and I grew up as a rock bass player, so it turns into a very heavy foundation, and bass has a huge place in that. How did you first land the gig with her? It all started out with an audition I did for a reality show called Rock Star: INXS in 2005, when INXS was looking for a new singer. I was auditioning to be in the house band, and I didn’t land that gig, but the musical director remembered me — and when Pink was looking for a bassist two years later, I got the call. I auditioned for it and her manager


LINDA BUCHANNAN


Eva Gardner

called me a few days later saying they’d send me a few albums of material to learn, to pack for three months on the road, and we’ll see you in three days. Before I knew it I was on a plane to Ireland. It all happened so quickly. The shows are huge spectacles of music and performance art, with aerial acrobatics, dancers, pyrotechnics, and so much going on. What are they like from your perspective? Even after all this time, I’m still noticing things that are going on with the dancers and screens behind me. When I’m in the show, I’m in it from my position facing the audience and I’m totally locked into the music. When we were doing production rehearsals for this stadium run in Europe it was more casual and I would be surprised at what was on the screens or what the acrobats were doing above me. It’s still exciting and so fresh. You’re the first-call player for many big stars. How do you land all of these gigs? I think part of it is my work ethic and doing what it takes to make it happen. I like to over-prepare. I want to be ready to jump in and be able to say yes when the musical director asks me to try something. I learn all of the parts on electric, upright, and synth bass. I make sure I have all of the right pedals there in case they need a specific sound. That goes a long way in any band, and it makes you invaluable as a player. I'm always open to learning new things and grow and expand my skillset to be more versatile. I'm not just on time, I make an effort to get there early to set up and get comfortable. Being easy to get along with, adaptable, easy going, compassionate, and considerate goes so far. You spend so much time in buses, on airplanes, and in tight spaces, and no one wants to be with doom and gloom all day. Those are all good principles to getting recommended for gigs. Every gig I’ve landed came from a recommendation from someone, and those just become stepping-stones that lead you down your path. How do you dial in your tone for each individual gig? I always start with my foundation of a Fender Precision Bass and an Ampeg rig, and

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that gets you pretty far as is. Part of being a hired gun is providing what the artist needs and wants of you without being asked. If you hear a part that is played with a pick with some fuzz, or a new wave ’80s thing, you do whatever it takes to get that sound. You have to be able to listen and use the tools that you need to mold your sound to fit it. What about different playing techniques for different gigs? I’m comfortable playing with both fingers and a pick when needed. I started with a pick when I was in high school. All of the bands I listened to had bass players who used a pick, so I did that. When I got into my performing arts high school I got thrown right into the jazz band, which I had no experience with. On my first day I came in as a little rock chick and I was holding my electric bass with a Fender confetti pick, and the first thing my professor said to me was, “Miss Eva, put down that pick.” Sure enough, I put the pick on my amp, and from that point forward I started playing with my fingers. It was a trial-by-fire thing, but I didn’t argue with him, I just did it. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it made me learn a new skill that I hadn’t known before. For most of the things that I did after that, I used my fingers, but recently I’ve taken up a lot of pick work because that’s what the gig calls for. With Pink right now I use a pick a few times throughout our set. We cover Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and I definitely use a pick and crank my tone knob up because that was the way Krist [Novoselic] played it. That’s when I finally get to pull out my confetti pick. Laughs. The artists you play with have large catalogs of songs. How do you woodshed for a gig? The first thing I do is go through each song and chart it all out note-for-note. Then I start chipping away at playing through them. If there’s any research I need to do about how the parts are played, or which pedals the songs needs, or if there are any variations in them live, I’ll watch YouTube videos or get my hands on live recordings so I can replicate them. Then I put all of the songs together


DENISE NICLOLAY

Eva Gardner

and play through them over and over. I plan my shedding schedule according to what the schedule is for the gig. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to prepare and you have to cram. But repetition is key to all of it. I play with the songs over and over, and if I have to run errands, I’ll put the songs on in my car and listen to them on repeat to build that recognition on top of the muscle memory. You play electric, upright, and synth bass. How do you approach each one differently? Electric is the most comfortable, but depending on what I’m doing and how much the songs have gotten in my body, it’s not hard to get to a good place on any of those instruments. When I shed, I really shed. I’ll even take lessons before hopping on a gig if I need to. I’m always learning, and if there’s a song on an instrument that needs a specific technique, I’ll study that technique and absorb it.

How much does growing up playing music in high school and college still inform your playing today? I’m super grateful that I have that education, because it’s a language I have that I can use when I’m in situations that warrant it. In the studio setting it’s helpful to be able to sight-read and chart music, or to know how to dial in tones in very specific ways. It can be an amazing skill set and vocabulary to have. A lot of these pop/rock gigs don’t involve talking about counterpoint and stuff, but there are times when it helps to have that foundation. In college I studied ethnomusicology, which introduced me to all types of music from around the world. I moved away from Western music and saw what the rest of the world was doing, and that opened my eyes and added so many dimensions to my musical knowledge. My focus in college was on Balinese gamelan. My introduction to up-

Pink with Eva

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Eva Gardner

right bass was playing in the Middle Eastern ensemble in college. Those were crazy time signatures and super dense charts with halfflats and such, so that threw me into so many other textures, timbres, and musicalities. But all through college I was still playing bass in rock and prog bands, so that's always been there as well. What is it like playing with Cher? Cher is awesome. She’s just super cool and down to earth. When I first met her, she gave me a huge hug. She’s super funny and fun to be around. I started with Cher two weeks after I finished a long Pink tour, so it was a quick transition, but because so many of the band and crew members were coming over with me for that gig, it was pretty smooth. That gig definitely has a ton of pinch-me moments, because I’m playing songs like “I Got You Babe” and “Turn Back Time,” so that was pretty surreal in itself. She has a 50-plus-year career, so playing so many songs that I grew up listening to and that my parents grew up listening to was special. What about playing with Gwen Stefani? I was brought into her band by the musical director in the Cher camp, so I knew a few people playing with her, which was nice in easing me into it. That was such a fun gig because I love her music, and it was so great to play those songs live. It was a lot of keyboard bass for those sets. Her stuff is really upbeat and poppy, with a lot of cool grooves. The MD was a keyboardist, so that helped with me programming all of the songs and getting my sound just right. I learned so much about software on that gig. I was singing on that material quite a bit, which was awesome, because Gwen’s choruses are really big, and it was cool to belt those onstage with her. Those shows definitely had a serious party vibe. What was it like writing the original material for the first Mars Volta album? That was an incredibly creative time. I started playing with them when I was still in college, which was so refreshing, because all of a sudden I was in a room with those guys where the rules I had just learned didn’t mat-

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ter. I could let all of that go and be free and just write and play whatever came from the heart. I remember sitting with the Omar [Rodriguez Lopez] and Cedric [Bixler-Zivala] in their rehearsal space and going through those parts and feeling an incredible connection. It was a really special process. Was it surreal to have Flea go on to play your parts on the album? It couldn’t have been more of a compliment or an honor. He and I actually talked about that several years later, and he said they didn’t need to be changed and he loved them the way they were. That guy is such a monster player and has influenced so many bassists. It meant the world to me. What was it like having Fender make your own signature line of basses? That still feels surreal to me. Having grown up with Fender being a household name as far back as I can remember, to have my name on one is unbelievable. I still can’t believe that happened, even after all of this time. As a second-generation bass player who grew up playing Fenders, that’s an absolute pinnacle for me. You have an amazing collection of vintage gear from your father. What are your prized bass possessions? The basses that I inherited from my dad mean so much to me. His ’62 Precision in Fiesta Red is my absolute prized possession. He tore the frets off it in the mid ’60s and claimed that he was the first one to create a fretless electric bass. It has such a special and unique sound. My first bass is also my favorite. I got it under the Christmas tree at the age of 15, and I eventually modeled my signature bass after it. I also inherited a beautiful Pfretzschner upright from my dad that was built in the 1860s, which I love to play. I toured with it for a little while, but then stopped because I got too nervous that something would happen to it. I took it out to Vegas for the residency with Cher because I didn’t have to travel much, but right now I have a 1950's Kay for the Pink tour. It's a total workhorse and can take a good beating on the road.


What was it like having a bass-playing father growing up? He was such a good storyteller, so I grew up hearing all of these amazing stories about what his life was like on the road throughout the ’60s. He played in a lot of different bands and had so many adventures, so at a young age I knew what I wanted to do with my life, even before I ever played bass. I was in second grade and I had a slumber party at my house, and I took the girls into my dad’s studio and told them I was a bass player. I grabbed one of my dad’s basses, but it was so heavy that I just kind of dragged it across the floor. My dad just came to life when he talked about music, so I always knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was friends with famous bass players of that era. Which ones were around you when you were growing up? John Entwistle was one of my father’s best friends, so I spent a lot of time with him as a kid. I remember when my family was staying in his house in England — it was right when I first started learning bass, and he took me aside and said he was happy to hear I was playing, and he told me to follow him. He took me to a door that opened up into this huge hallway-closet just lined with basses. He told me to pick a bass and it would be mine for the time I was staying there. I chose and old Fender Precision because that was my dream bass of course. I just sat and played and played that thing. At one point he invited me to his home studio and he handed me his famous Buzzard bass and put it on my shoulders. It was huge and hung super low on me and had eyes that illuminated on the headstock. Looking back now, those moments were so special to me because he made me feel included. He didn't have to do that – I was just one of his buddies' kids! But that encouragement and inclusion really was important. I wasn't even at a place where I could appreciate who he was at the time. He was just John, one of my dad's eccentric friends. Later in life I realized his impact on the bass world and the music world in general. Roger Waters was also around. He was

LINDA BUCHANNAN

Eva Gardner

even at my first birthday party. Andy Johns [producer for Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Jack Bruce] was another person in my life who was very supportive of me when I was younger. Andy started out as a bass player and actually gave me my first bass lesson. We would always sit and talk about the Led Zeppelin sessions and how he miked the drums for Led Zeppelin IV and about fading in the mandolin intro that Jimmy Page played on "The Battle of Evermore." Having these wildly successful people pay attention to me at a young age was so good for me. It was crazy growing up in my household. Ron Wood was over, Dad sponsored Rod Stewart's soccer team, Julian Lennon would hang, Mick Taylor would come over and play guitar in my living room. That was just normal life for us kids. I realize now that it's not so normal. Laughs. So, bass has always been deeply embedded in your DNA. From an early age that’s just what I heard. Those low frequencies always stuck out to me. It was something that I gravitated towards and I took to it like a duck to water. I didn’t choose the bass; the bass chose me. l

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HISTORY LESSON

Avery Sharpe’s 400 Is A Musical Portrait Of The African American Experience By Jim Roberts

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CREDIT?

Avery Sharpe

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nce heralded as a “young lion” of jazz, Avery Sharpe is now a savvy 65-year-old veteran of performing, recording, composing, and teaching. Perhaps best known for his long association with pianist McCoy Tyner, Sharpe has backed many jazz greats and has led his own groups, playing both upright and electric bass, and recorded 13 albums for his label, JKNM Records. His latest is 400: An African American Musical Portrait, which was released earlier this year. It is a brilliant, wide-ranging suite with ten tunes, all but one composed by Sharpe, that present a musical overview of the African-American experience, from the arrival of the first slave ship in 1619 to the present day. In the album’s liner notes, David Adler compares 400 to Duke Ellington’s Black,

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Brown and Beige. It’s an apt comparison. Just as Ellington did in 1943, Sharpe has used the expressive power of his compositions to present an historical perspective that uses both words and music to communicate with — and educate — his listeners. Throughout the album, Sharpe’s bass is the central voice, whether he is playing a melody, providing subtle support, stepping forward to solo, or engaging in dialogue with the other musicians. “All music starts from the bottom,” he says. “Bass is second nature for me, and I hear things from the bottom first. I go from there.” As he began to conceive the work, Sharpe says, he asked himself, “How can I put 400 years into 60 minutes? I started thinking about how I wanted to approach that compositionally. I decided to break it up into 100-


Avery Sharpe

year intervals.” Those four centuries became the structural components of the suite, with each era represented by two or three pieces. The first section, Century One, begins with “Arrival,” a sort of overture featuring some of the key players who are heard throughout, including guitarist Kevin Eubanks, saxophonist/flutist Don Braden, and drummer Ronnie Burrage, who has been collaborating with Sharpe since the 1980s. After an opening instrumental theme, we hear the Extended Family Choir — a six-voice group that includes Sharpe’s brother, sister, niece, and nephew — singing “stolen from my land” in Swahili. After guitar and tenor sax solos, there is a call-and-response section with Sharpe’s bass and Tendai Muparutsa’s djembe (an African goblet-shaped drum) answering the choir, as they sing “the new world” in Swahili. The voices and instruments then unite for a closing theme. The second piece is called “Is There a Way Home” and expresses the longing of the

slaves for their African homeland. “I did that tune for a play with the actress Jasmine Guy, called Raisin’ Cane, which was based on the literary work of Jean Toomer,” says Sharpe. “It’s not angry — it’s more like a lullaby.” Sharpe’s solo on the tune is like a griot’s tale, with flurries of notes, double-stops, and ascending phrases that combine to create a narrative arc. Century Two begins with “Colonial Life,” a tune that brings to mind another great bassist–composer, Charles Mingus. Reminiscent of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” the piece is not a blues in the conventional 12-bar sense but has, as Sharpe puts it, “tinges of the blues.” He readily acknowledges the influence of Mingus on his work — “big time,” he says, “in terms of bass playing and as a composer and leading the band. He’s probably one of my biggest inspirations.” On “Colonial Life,” Kevin Eubanks’ guitar is featured, with strong rhythmic backing from Sharpe and Burrage. “On that one,” Sharpe explains, “we’re starting to get to

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Avery Sharpe

L I ST E N Avery Sharpe, 400: An African American Musical Portrait [2019, JKNM]; Avery Sharpe Trio Live [2010, JKNM]; McCoy Tyner, Infinity [1995, Impulse!]; McCoy Tyner, Live at Sweet Basil [1987, Evidence] GEAR On 400, Avery Sharpe played only one bass, a 1935 E. H. Roth 7/8 upright that he has owned since the 1990s. It has had one major repair, a neck replacement by David Gage that was done, Sharpe says, a year or two after he got it. The strings are a custom La Bella 7720 set, with unconventional materials and construction for a brighter tone. The bass was recorded with a microphone and a direct signal from either a David Gage Realist or Underwood pickup. No amp was used in the studio. CO N N E C T www.averysharpe. com

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where stuff is getting deeper in terms of the slave trade and building up to the Civil War.” Up next, “Fiddler” is a striking portrait of the music that slaves played on the plantations, beginning with Sharpe’s evocation of a classical waltz played by two violins, with a bass solo that explores the contours of the melody, before it makes a transition to oldtime string-band music. Sharpe says the piece was inspired by his longtime friend and collaborator, the violinist John Blake Jr., who died in 2014. “John had this thing that he did with violin and African instruments, because there are African instruments that are precursors to the violin,” he says. “The rhythm [of the string-band piece] is like an old woman at one of those plantation gatherings, maybe hitting her cane on a wooden floor.” Moving ahead into Century Three, Sharpe begins with “Antebellum,” an a cappella gospel hymn, with the Extended Family Choir imploring us to “Get up, rise up.” The follow-up, “A New Music,” moves past the Civil War and toward the 20th century with a ragtime piano piece, composed by Sharpe and played by Zaccai Curtis, which shifts into a New Orleans jazz–style tune with a hard-swinging bass solo. The big-band period is evoked by “Harlem and the War to End All Wars,” with Sharpe’s concise bass line anchoring the rhythm section under guitar and tenor sax solos and then moving into a potent solo, perhaps his best on the disc, marked by sharply punctuated phrases that build to an emphatic conclusion. The final century begins, appropriately enough, with a slow blues, “Blues and World War II.” Having played acoustic guitar on all the preceding tunes, Kevin Eubanks moves to electric here, playing an extended solo that’s followed by Davis Whitfield on piano. The two trade phrases and then — bang — we’re into bebop, with Sharpe leading the way on a head that showcases his arco–scat style. A longtime admirer of Slam Stewart, Sharpe has become his most worthy successor, and one of the few contemporary bassists to master this distinctive style. “Jimmy Blanton gets the credit for bringing the bass more in front,

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playing horn lines,” says Sharpe, “but I contend it was actually Slam, because he was doing the hum-along bass a year or two before Blanton, with Slim & Slam.” The album’s only non-original tune follows, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” a spiritual that was heard often during the civil rights demonstrations of the ’60s. Sharpe states the melody on his bass before the choir takes over, and he moves to the forefront again on a solo marked by bluesy smears and other voice-like techniques. A powerful recitation by Sofia Rivera, Sharpe’s niece, caps the piece, with words that bring it right up to the present: “Never backward, onward, forward/There is no turning back now.” The conclusion of 400 is “500,” a contemporary-jazz composition that looks to the next century with feelings of both anger and hope. After guitar, piano, and trumpet solos, Sharpe steps forward for a final solo marked by crisp accents and powerfully articulated runs. The tune ends not with a concluding chord but a fade, as if to say, where is this going? “Quite honestly, I was thinking of Obama and the nonsense we have now,” Sharpe says. “Some of the things I had to do 30 or 40 years ago, I have to do now. I’m like, Wait a minute, I thought we went through that whole thing. I’m curious about the next hundred years. I’m not going to be here for all of that, but my kids and their kids will be. I’m hoping for the best.” As a composer, Sharpe has done a remarkable job with 400, making us see and feel the different eras of African-American history as expressed through musical styles. For bassists, there is an additional layer of meaning, as his playing on the album, especially in the Century Three and Century Four sections, traces the evolution of jazz bass, from Pops Foster to Jimmy Blanton and Slam Stewart to Ray Brown and Charles Mingus and up to the present day. “I hadn’t thought about the bass playing aspect of it,” he says, “but I was thinking about the historical aspect — it’s not just African-American history but American history. I was trying to take you on that journey.” l


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Avery Sharpe

BOW ’N’ HUM

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he travels through the history of African-American music on 400: An African American Musical Portrait, Avery Sharpe stops at a key point in the development of the bass. In the second half of “Blues and World War II” he pays homage to the pioneering bow-and-hum-along style of Slam Stewart. Sharpe’s 32-bar Rhythm-changes head makes for a pitch-perfect introductory lesson to singing along with your bowed acoustic bass or plucked electric bass. Example 1 shows the head as heard at the 6:01 mark. Avery offers, “When Slam Stewart hummed along with his bass, he used a sort of nasal na, na sound an octave higher than A

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© 2018 Avery G. Sharpe. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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the bowed note. Another noted bow-and-hum bassist from the same era, Major Holley, had a deeper voice and used the syllables ba, de, do, sa, and a little bit of ze, in unison with the bowed note.” (Holley and Stewart recorded two albums together: Two Big Mice in 1977 and Shut Yo’ Mouth in 1981.) “I use sort of a ze and zo sound an octave higher than the bowed note. Use whatever feels comfortable for your voice.” If the key doesn’t suit your vocal range, don’t hesitate to transpose to a more suitable key. Also, note the half-steps and chromatic movement in bar 4 and the bridge (letter B) — good training for your voice and your ear.

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Yellowjackets

DANE ALDERSON Raising His Voice With Yellowjackets By Chris Jisi

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Photo by Maggie Graff

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here are bass gigs, and then there are the coveted bass chairs — seats so well-established by badasses in service to major musical voices that when a replacement comes onboard, the expectations are particularly high. That was certainly the case when Jimmy Haslip left the nest of Yellowjackets, after four decades of landmark work, to be followed in fine form by Felix Pastorius for a few years. Since then, the buzz about the third heir to the Jackets throne can best be described as a continuous crescendo. Dane Alderson has been nothing short of a revelation. On his 2016 Jackets’ debut, Cohearance, he first turned heads on saxophonist Bob Mintzer’s straight-ahead jaunt “Guarded Optimism,” bringing a new level of nuance to walking on the electric bass, both in half-time and double-time tempos. Next, he takes an assured, expressive solo on pianist Russell Ferrante’s key-hopping ballad “Anticipation,” before bringing both skills to the giant-stepping harmony of Ferrante and Felix Pastorius’ “Trane Changing.” Add Alderson’s percolating, palm-muted groove prowess

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while locking with drummer Will Kennedy on “Inevitable Outcome” and “Eddie’s in the House,” and his lyrical, arching solo on the 7/4 “Fran’s Scene” to his plucking package. Most recently, the congenial 6-stringer has shown his growth and influence within Yellowjackets on the quartet’s most recent outing, Raising Our Voice, with guest vocalist Luciana Souza. Presented with two Haslip-recorded Jackets covers, Alderson makes them his own, both solo and groovewise. Elsewhere, he deftly doubles melodies with Souza, Mintzer, and Ferrante; twice takes trade-off solos with Mintzer; contributes his first Jackets composition; and summons his command of his onboard MIDI system, effect pedals, and Loop Station to create a couple of ear-bending, ambient interlude tracks. With due respect to the late Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Yellowjackets have the bass world’s next Great Dane. Born in Perth, Western Australia, on April 19, 1983, Alderson heard a wide range of music growing up. His father, an Australian jazz drummer, spun everything from Oscar Peter-


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Dane Alderson

L I ST E N Yellowjackets, Raising Our Voice [2018, Mack Ave], Cohearance [2016, Mack Ave]; Kait Dunton, Planet D’earth [2019, Real & Imagined Music]; the Grid, Wear More Headbands [2013, Listen/Hear]; thumpR, Echo Papa Alphabet [2011, thumpR]; Logic, Logic Live [2010, Bandcamp]; VOID, VOID [2006, XenDen Music] GEAR Basses NYBW RS6-24 “Oceana” prototype signature 6-string; Yamaha TRB II 6-string; “I borrowed Ben Shepherd’s custom fretless Ibanez 5-string for the track ‘Quiet’” Strings DR Strings Hi-Beams medium (.030, .045, .065, .085, .105, .130) Amp Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 or DB 751 head with Aguilar DB 410 cabinet Effects Roland VB-99 V-Bass System, Boss RC-300 Loop Station, Boss OC-3 Super Octave, MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay, Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal

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son to Weather Report. His American-born mom favored the pop radio of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, and the Neville Brothers. And his sister dug the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Irish music. Dane started on his dad’s drum kit at age four and found his way to playing the metal of bands like Metallica and Pantera with school friends. His step-brother’s passion for the Red Hot Chili Peppers turned his focus to bass, at 13. “Hearing Flea changed my life; he’s is the reason I play bass,” Dane admits. “As a drummer, I could relate to his slapping technique on Blood Sugar Sex Magik and One Hot Minute [1991 and 1995, Warner Bros.].” Equipped with a Fame Hondo 4-string he got for Christmas, he applied his drum-rudiment books to bass, using his thumb as the kick drum and his index finger as the snare. His father got him into the youth big band in their suburban town of Kalamunda, escalating Dane’s ascent into jazz. He saved up to buy a Yamaha BBN5 5-string and became a huge fan of the Dave Weckl band. When they came through Perth, he sat in the front row and soaked up the influence of Tom Kennedy. “His sound, touch, and style blew me away. I transcribed a lot of his parts and solos using Amazing Slow Downer [software].” At 16, Alderson successfully auditioned for the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Perth’s thriving music scene was awaiting. You came up amid a potent group of young musicians in Perth. I was very fortunate, considering what many of them have since accomplished. I knew Linda May Han Oh from the scene, and there was a local band called K, who hired me when I was 17 and took me under their wing. They had saxophonist Graeme Blevins [Phil Collins, Kyle Eastwood], keyboardist Grant Windsor [José James, Gregory Porter], and drummer Andy Fisenden [Boy George], who is the reason I got in the Jackets. They turned me on to the acid-jazz scene of the time, and also Meshell Ndegeocello’s albums. We were into group improvisation, which opened up my ears in a big way. At 19 I won a scholar-

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ship given by local trumpeter James Morrison, which included a new Yamaha 6-string bass. James formed a band with few of the previous winners, including Andy, saxophonist Troy Roberts [Jeff “Tain” Watts, Joey DeFrancesco], trumpeter Matt Jodrell [Gil Evans, Jon Batiste], and keyboardist Simon Stockhausen [Karlheinz’s son]. We cut a record and toured Europe several times. I was settling into the Perth scene, doing gigs and sessions, and playing in Logic, an odd-meter fusion band. But my dream was to go to New York City to play jazz with my heroes. How did you get to the States? In 2012, my housemate was moving on, so I thought, Why not make the move now? My sister and mom were living in Charlottesville, Virginia, so I moved there, and it has remained my home base. Because it’s a college town, it’s thriving musically, with an array of styles played in various venues. I’ve had a regular Monday night quartet gig a restaurant/ club called Rapture for years. I also took advantage of being fairly close to New York by coming up regularly. I took a lesson from the late Jeff Andrews, saw a lot of my favorites, like Mike Stern and Wayne Krantz, and did some gigs with Troy Roberts’ band, Nu-Jive. How did you land the Jackets bass chair? In March 2015, I had hit a rough patch; it was wintertime, gigs were slow, and I was a bit worried and discouraged. I woke up one morning, and out of the blue there was an email from Will Kennedy that said, “Hey, Dane, we saw some videos with you on YouTube; would you like to do some gigs with the Jackets?” It was insane! The videos they had seen were of a Perth band called VOID, which was a spinoff of K, with Andy [Fisenden] and Troy [Roberts]. Will had met Andy when they both played at a drum festival in Melbourne, and they stayed in touch, which included Andy sending VOID videos to Will. When the bass slot opened in the Jackets, Will contacted Andy and asked who the bass player was in those videos. Andy gave him my contact information, and told him I was living in Virginia. What happened from there?


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Dane Alderson

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT CHECK IT OUT CHECK IT OUT CHECK IT OUT

Watch Dane playing with Yellowjackets, Logic, and VOID.

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They called and gave me a gig in Denver that was a month away, which was essentially my audition. I had a few Jackets albums and had played tunes like “Revelation” and “Downtown” in school, and of course I was a big fan of Jimmy Haslip, but I had a lot of homework to do. They sent me 15 songs, and I only knew “Revelation.” The first thing I did was memorize all of them. I didn’t want to be reading for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; I wanted to be alert for cues and changes on the fly. My advice is, if you ever get a chance to audition for your heroes, memorize the music — the guys really appreciated me doing that. In Denver, we had a quick rehearsal the day before without Bob [Mintzer], which included some arrangement changes. The gig went well, I felt an instant chemistry with Will, and a few days later, they offered me the position. Two weeks after that, we were playing the Blue Note in New York and we began working on Cohearence soon after. I was in the right place at the right time, for which I’m extremely grateful. How do you view your role in the band? First and foremost, I want to provide a solid foundation for the guys; my main goal is to make them feel comfortable. I noticed right away that their focus on dynamics is more extreme than any band I’ve ever been in. So I concentrated on being able to play grooves very quietly but with intensity. Will is the master of that — he can lay down a nasty groove at super-low volumes. Beyond locking it down, I also have plenty of freedom. Russ and Bob were like, “The floor is yours. If you’re hearing something harmonically, go for it and we’ll go with you. If you want to experiment with effects, feel free.” The music is open; even their most famous tunes have consistently evolved since I’ve been onboard. Let’s talk about your approach to soloing. For me it started with transcribing bass players: Tom Kennedy, Jeff Andrews, John Patitucci, Gary Willis, Oteil Burbridge, Richard Bona, and Matt Garrison, who’s a major influence of mine; I had a major shift in perspective of what the instrument is capable of after hearing Matt. All of them were key to de-

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veloping my phrasing — using hammer-ons and pull-offs to play legato, instead of plucking every note, and with Oteil and Richard, there was the vocal element. Along the way I also started transcribing horn players, piano players, and guitarists — a lot of Mike Stern and his II–V–I patterns. Eventually I started sounding too much like other bassists, so I tuned everyone out for a while. I record myself on gigs now more than I ever have. It can be painful to listen back, but it’s helpful in the long pursuit of trying to find my own voice. More than anything I try to create melodies; that’s what the best soloists are able to do. On Raising Our Voice, the Jackets cover two tunes from their 1993 Like a River album, “Solitude” and “Man Facing North.” That decision happened pretty close to when we hit the studio. On the original “Solitude,” Jimmy Haslip is featured throughout the track playing the melody and soloing beautifully on his fretless. Here, Russ reworked the arrangement to feature Luciana. I double the melody at the start and I take a one-chorus solo; then Luciana gets some space to sing in Portuguese and English, including a new repeated section at the end where she can stretch. For “Man Facing North,” we changed the groove a bit in the studio, Luciana sang some of the melody, and Russ wrote a new section where Bob and I trade solos. You start the second solo trade with a beautiful chordal passage. Who are your influences in that area? Matt, Oteil, John Patitucci, Dominique DiPiazza, and Hadrien Feraud are the main ones. I learned voicings from all of them. And what they all do, that I love, is have a droning open string in their chords, particularly Matt with his droning open C string. You make use of a hammer-on/pull-off technique to start your solo on “Everyone Else Is Taken.” Credit to Matt again. The spark for that comes from him using that technique when he guested on Meshell’s album The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel [2005, Shanachie]. It also comes from listening to


Dane Alderson

and transcribing a lot of Irish music: jigs, reels, and aires — their melodies are full of inflections involving hammers and pull-offs. Essentially, on the technique side, I started as a two-finger plucker, and when I got in the band K, they taught me how to do the palmmute using my thumb, index, and middle fingers to play fingerstyle, like Anthony Jackson or Pino Palladino. From there I got into Matt’s fingerstyle approach, where he uses the thumb and all four fingers. And I began using a ramp on my basses inspired by Matt and Gary Willis. By the way, the most challenging aspect of “Everyone,” which is Russell’s tune, is that he wanted us to create a sense of flipping the feel back and forth between 12/8 and three. On “Ecuador,” Bob and Russ solo over ”Red Clay”-like changes, but you solo over a different section. Yup, I was definitely ready for the “Red Clay” solo changes, and initially we were all going to blow over those. But after hearing it

back, they decided to add another section to have me play over, and they’re cool changes, as well. That’s one of my favorite tunes on the record; it’s fun to play live. The ambient tracks “Emerge” and “Divert” are yours. I’ve always loved ambient music, everything from Aphex Twin to Squarepusher to minimalist stuff that borders on new age. So when I get my solo spot on gigs, I usually experiment by looping a drone and then playing something atmospheric on top of it, using my Boss RC-300 Loop Station and Roland VB-99 MIDI unit. The guys like it because it’s a contrast to all the notes flying around on our tunes, and they asked me to do a couple of sonic interludes on the record. “Emerge” is basically a loop of bass swells and harmonics, and then I improvise on top with a patch on the Roland that puts the note up two octaves and adds reverse delay. “Divert” developed on Jacket gigs; it’s a loop of a 6/8 drum beat I slap out on my strings, and then I add

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ROUND CORE BASS BOOMERS PRESSUREWOUNDS BALANCED NICKELS BRITE FLATS PRECISION FLATS

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a bass line and melody, and I improvise over that with a guitar patch. “Brotherly” is your full-song contribution. The guys squeezed it out of me; they were like, “You have to get a tune on this album.” It was an idea I’d had on my laptop for a few years, and I wrote it using my Loop Station. The inspiration is the U.K. husband-and-wife band Brotherly, whose main members are [writer, producer, bassist, and multi-instrumentalist] Robin Mullarkey and [co-writer/ vocalist] Anna Stubbs. What I love about their music — particularly their first album, One Sweet Life [2007, MAM] — is their grooves are in 4/4, but they mess with the syncopation of their drum parts and beats to make it sound like the feel is flipped around or that it’s in odd time. A lot of drummers post clips of themselves playing over Brotherly tracks on YouTube. When it came time to hand my charts to Bob and Russ and give them directions and suggestions, I think I’ve never been more nervous in my life! But they were terrific, as was Will, who immediately got the concept and made the drum part his own. Since your Perth days you’ve been known for being especially adept at walking on the electric bass. Any insight? I listened to a lot of upright players for bass line construction and tone, especially Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, and Christian McBride. Sounding like an electric bass when you’re walking still puts off a lot of bandleaders. If you can incorporate a bit of muting with either hand, you can get closer to the attack of an upright bass. I like incorporating my right palm because it gives the note a fat attack, and then by lifting my palm slightly, I get some of the upright-like resonance and sustain — and I can control the overall dynamics, as well. I’ll also move my right hand to various spots for a rounder or punchier sound. I picked up some metronome tips for swinging and for time in general from Jeff Andrews and also from Victor Wooten, when I did an Australian clinic tour with him. And my early bass teacher, Paul Pooley, had me practice II-V-I patterns when I was walking, which was great because it

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gets you away from always landing on the root, and it helps your lines melodically. You’re working on a signature bass with New York Bass Works. I’ve been very lucky to collaborate with David Segal, an incredibly talented luthier who has gone above and beyond with every detail of the design I’ve requested. He reached out to me a few years ago through bassist Cheikh Ndoye, who had worked with Russ. We’ve been working on my Oceana model 6-string. It has an alder body, quilted-maple top, a 35”-scale one-piece roasted-maple neck, and an Indian rosewood fingerboard with a virtually flat radius. That’s due to the way I set up my basses for my right-hand raking. I generally rest my thumb on the string above the string I’m plucking, so my action across the strings gets gradually higher as you go from the C string to the B string. The bass also has two adjustable NYBW custom pickups, with an adjustable ramp in-between them; a Pike Amplification preamp, with low, mid, and high cut and boost, and a mid-frequency selector; and a Graph Tech Ghost MIDI system. It’s a hexaphonic unit with a 13-pin input on the side of the bass, to drive my Roland V-Bass. Once the Oceana moves from prototype to standard model, David and I are going to work on a P-Bass model and a fretless bass. I understand there’s a Yellowjackets big band record in the works. What else lies ahead? Yes, in November we’ll be doing a record with the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany [anchored by Bass Magazine columnist John Goldsby], and we’ve already begun writing for a new album in early 2020. I’ve also been doing some dates with another Mack Avenue artist, vocalist Alicia Olatuja, and gigging with some great local musicians in Charlottesville, like organist Jonah Kane-West, trumpeter John D’earth, and saxophonist Charles Owens. Other than that, in my home studio I’m very slowly piecing together material for a solo record down the line. For now, getting to play great music with great musicians keeps me challenged, inspired, and full of awe and joy. See music, page 62. l


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BROTHER FROM ANOTHER METER

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ane Alderson offers a peek into his creative process with a mini score he created for Bass Magazine showing the four basic components of the C section of “Brotherly” (at 4:38, with the melody entering at 5:12). This section was the genesis of the composition, and from it he created the song’s other sections. As Alderson explains in the Q&A, the U.K. duo Brotherly was the inspiration for the track, particularly their penchant for writing in 4/4 but with drums parts and beats that feel displaced or turned around, or suggesting odd meters or measures. Here, he unravels each component: The drum staff “I used basic drum notation here for what is a four-bar phrase repeated twice. The bottom line of the staff is the kick drum, the the second space from the top is the snare, the top of the staff is the hi-hat, and the second line from the bottom is the tom-tom. This was the very first idea I had for the song. I literally came up with the kickand-snare groove by playing the kick with my thumb and the snare with my index finger, on my bass — before programming it on a drum machine. Notice none of the kicks land on the one, and most of them are upbeats, in the spirit of Brotherly playing around with the syncopation.” The chords staff “The chords came next, adapted here for bass and played an octave up [all of which are in the range of a 4-string]. They’re all 1–5–9 chords, except for the final E13 chord [cheat and use the open E on a 4-string]. I want-

ed to have a strong, open sound, not colored by 3rds or 7ths. Notice that the last three chords of the first four-bar section, starting with the pickup to bar 3 [E5(add9), B5(add9), Gb5(add9)], move down a whole-step in the second four bars, starting with the pickup to bar 7 [D5(add9), A5(add9), E13]. Rhythmically, I came up with a different syncopation for the chords, while playing them against the drum part. But they all avoid landing on downbeats and are mostly shifted over by a 16th-note.” The bass staff “The bass line came next, for which I basically matched the rhythm of the chords, except for the extra Db root notes and leading-tone F in the first and fifth measures [play the low Db’s and D’s an octave up on a 4-string]. On the actual track I play a few more extra notes before the melody comes in.” “The melody came last. I started writing it on bass, but I had an Akai MIDI keyboard I was trying out synth sounds on, and I end-

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ed up writing the melody on that. As a result, the range and flow of the melody is keyboard-like, and not the kind of shapes I’d typically play on bass, which was nice [the high Gb in bars 1 and 6 are not on most 4-strings]. The melody is influenced by the harmony, starting off with a 1–5–9 shape for the first three notes, and I tried to avoid 3rds and 7ths in the melody to prevent it from having a happy or sad sound. The melody’s tonality in the last two measures is E Lydian dominant, relating to the E13 chord. Overall, rhythmically, the melody has its own offbeat syncopation, but it’s more closely related to the chord and bass lines than to the drums. I also used fragments of it earlier in the song. The melody at the end of bar 4 and the first beat of bar 5 is heard as the track’s opening melody [at 0:00 and 0:20]. And the melody in bar 3 and the beat one of bar 4 is the vamp Russell and I play at the beginning of the track [at 0:09], which recurs throughout.”


Dane Alderson

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The Soundtrack of Our Lives

The conclusion of our two-part look at his amazing life & career In Issue 3, we traced Abraham Laboriel’s journey from Mexico to Berklee to Los Angeles and his rise on the L.A. session scene. This time, he reflects on his mentors and collaborators and the lessons he’s learned from them.

By E. E. Bradman / Photo by Phil Farnsworth

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Pocket Full Of Drummers

IN

his nearly five decades of creating bass magic, Abraham Laboriel has played with most of the great drummers of the 20th century, so we had to ask him about the rhythm-section partners he’s most associated with — and his all-time favorite drummer. When you moved to L.A., did you get a chance to play with Hal Blaine? Yes. It was mostly jingles, but it was amazing to play with Hal. It was always instant love. We just loved and respect- ed each other Let’s talk about your time with Jeff Porcaro. My time with Jeff was very special. [Andy Pratt’s] “Avenging Annie” was his favorite record, and when I moved to Los Angeles in ’76, Jeff played on my first demo, along with Freddy Tackett on guitar and keyboardist Bill Payne, who would both later join Little Feat. He was unbelievable, instantly part of my life. He started to recommend me for all kinds of things, and I began to record with him. In fact, when I first came to town, Jeff went out of his way to recommend me and to help me. Mateo Laboriel How would you describe Jeff’s playing? Abraham Laboriel No matter what the tempo was, every beat felt huge; because of

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the way he placed things, you had all the time in the world. His natural gift was like no one else’s, and you knew the music was going to be excellent just because he was there. You’ve played with Vinnie Colaiuta a lot, too. Vinnie learned a lot from Jeff. Vinnie and I coincided at Berklee for about two years, and he stayed in the practice room 24/7. When he started to do studio work, producers would be overwhelmed by his technique, but Jeff kept insisting that they hire Vinnie, who could go on rhythmic tangents that were absolutely impossible for producers to relate to. But Vinnie and I always liked each other — there was always an implied trust. ML You’re one of the few people that when he goes there, you don’t lose track of time. AL Exactly. My ongoing joke with Vinnie is that he’s the only musician I know who can subdivide the week against the month. And you know what he says to me? “The month is rushing.” [Laughs.] Because he can hear those nanosecond things. Your connection with Steve Gadd on tracks like Lee Ritenour’s “French Roast” is phenomenal. AL When Anthony Jackson went back to New York in 1978, Lee Ritenour started to use me, and pretty soon, we did “French Roast.” Steve Gadd and I … it was an instant thing. ML You guys agree where the one is, for sure.


Every note, he would give his whole being. Gadd puts so much life and love into everything he does that you feel a sense of privilege playing with him. Who influenced you most? Gadd really shaped me. Jeff always inspired me. Because of the ten years I spent with Koinonia, Bill Maxwell also shaped me. It was brutal when he said, “You are my favorite bass player in the world, but you are not comfortable playing a shuffle.” He spent time with me until I finally got it. How did you get it? In Berklee, I learned that a shuffle is not triplets or dotted eighths, but I still didn’t understand it. So, one day, I was walking in the street and thinking in five, and it completely blew my mind because I suddenly heard the shuffle: 1-23 1-2, 1-2-3 1-2, 1-2-3 1-2. That’s why shuffle feels special, because it’s actually in 5. Mind blown! Did you ever work on complex rhythms with Vinnie? I asked him to teach me four over five, but he told me I didn’t need to learn it — in his opinion, it’s an artificial rhythm that does not appear anywhere in nature. [Laughs.] Who else comes to mind as an exceptional rhythm-section partner? I had a lot of fun playing with Alphonse Mouzon on the Dingo sessions for Miles Davis. Peter Donald went to school with me at Berklee; he’s a genius. We played together in Greg Mathieson’s band, and when he was at the Dick Grove School of Music, he taught Abe Jr. for about two years. I’ve also been fortunate enough to play with drummers like Mike Baird, John “J.R.” Robinson, and Carlos Vega. The time I spent with Jim Keltner was very important to me. Jim is not a pattern player, and he certainly is not a predictable player; the things that he does are delicious and unexpected. He’s an acquired taste, but at the same time, he’s so consistent that people feel that everything is okay. ML So who’s your favorite? AL By now, I’ve recorded with all the drummers, and Bill and Alex Acuña are a very, very crucial part of my heart and my life. But as the years go by, my favorite drum-

mer on earth is Abe Jr., bar none. I noticed that you both played on Alison Krauss’ A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection in 2007. That experience was like nothing else. We met when Abe Jr. and I were doing Les Paul & Friends: A Tribute to a Legend, and the next thing you know, she invited us to come to Nashville to record with her. The first time we began playing, she started crying, and then she called her nanny, and then she and her nanny were crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told us that the way me and Abe Jr. love each other and make music together was something she had never seen before. She said, “You guys have something special that is making my music better than I ever expected.” Were you ready to play country? At some point, we started to play country, and she said, “No, no, no — I don’t want this record to sound country at all. I want your hearts.” Abe Jr. and I were very proud of our country grooves [laughs]. But that was a really special relationship. It’s a family thing. The chemistry in that video of the three of you at Berklee is amazing. We are very proud of that day. ML I was nervous but I loved it. AL The way Mateo programs the sequencer is unbelievable. If you notice, that performance starts with Mateo’s sequencer, and it feels great. Then Abe Jr. joins in and it’s fantastic. Why haven’t the three of you put out an album yet? ML We’re working on it! We’ve laid down at least 20 to 30 things. AL Yeah, it’s being born. How close is it? AL It’s more done than not. Basically, if the three of us could dedicate two months to it, we could get it done. When we worked on it for a week straight, we could not believe the creativity and the quality of the ideas. But uninterrupted time has been really hard. ML If we could dedicate one more month, it’d be done. We’re hoping that it will be released this year.

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PHIL FARNSWORTH

Joy Is Not Optional At Berklee in 2005

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aith is a crucial ingredient for Laboriel, who became a born-again Christian on October 11, 1977. His band Koinonia — which also included fellow Christians Alex Acuña, Hadley Hockensmith, Bill Maxwell, Justin Almario, and Harlan Rogers — was named for the Christian concept of fellowship, and Abraham continues to be a beacon among Hispanic Christian musicians all over the world. Over the years, he has balanced his secular studio and live work with a steady stream of gospel and Christian contemporary artists, including Andraé Crouch, the Winans, Helen Baylor, Phil Driscoll, Ron Kenoly, Oslo Gospel Choir, Don Moen, Twila Paris, 2nd Chap-

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ter Of Acts, and Donnie McClurkin, as well as performing on devotional albums by artists such as Joe Williams, Deniece Williams, and Maria Muldaur. How did becoming born-again affect you as a musician? I was 30 years old, and the first thing that happened is that the burden to be creative disappeared. When I realized that I was just a vessel the music goes through — and that my responsibility was to be available to share the gift of music — the burden was removed. Your faith is central. Central to the groove! In your videos, you recommend always


Abraham Laboriel

keeping up with them. What do you tell fellow Christian musicians in similar situations? A Christian musician came to me, very sad, and told me that after he had agreed to do a world tour, he realized that part of the performance every night involved a demonic ritual. I felt the freedom to tell this musician that he didn’t have to cancel — instead, if he played every note as an expression of love, it would touch their hearts and give them the courage to make it through the day, something the ritual would not do. He went on the tour and came back three years later to thank me and tell me I was right. So, you don’t tell Christian musicians to avoid secular gigs. Don’t say yes to a gig just because it’s Christian or turn it down just because it’s not. You have to constantly use discernment and talk to the Lord. The Lord loves talking with you; he loves having a relationship with you. I was surprised that you played on an album with a song like Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls.” Greg Mathieson apologized for letting me play on that. He told me later, “I needed your bass playing, but it’s not the kind of song you would usually be part of.” [Laughs.]

PHIL FARNSWORTH

playing with feeling, even during practice. Of all the emotions, I hear joy in your playing. Joy is not optional. One of the scriptures says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. So, if you are going to have any strength to share anything, it’s got to be joyful. Joy has nothing to do with a smile. It has to do with a deep state of being. Without joy, there’s no strength. Isn’t that powerful? Somebody told me once, “When I hear you, I feel like you’re giving me permission to cry.” I can imagine that being in L.A. in the ’70s and ’80s, you’ve been around some things that challenge your faith. ML Some people have told me that whenever my father would come to a session, even if there had been tension, it would become peaceful. And he’d be able to stay until four or five in the morning — even if he didn’t go into the control room and get a little extra “bump.” They were shocked that he was fully present even though he wasn’t participating. AL I would not participate, but they would not feel judged, which is important. I never acted holier than normal or better than anyone else. Some artists would want me to take drugs for a good time, but then they’d see that I was having just as good a time as they were, and they were surprised that I was

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PHIL AFRNSWORTH

The Teacher Abe, Patrice Rushen, and Steve Gadd at 2005 Berklee Convocation

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ld-school bass students may remember Abraham’s instructional videos Funk Bass Concepts (1990) and Beginning Funk Bass (1994), which balanced humor, heartfelt advice, and encouragement with hardcore practical tips. Over the years, Laboriel has conducted many clinics and workshops around the world, including in Spanish-speaking countries and for Christian musicians. He has also conducted masterclasses at his alma mater, Berklee, which gave him an honorary doctorate in 2005. More recently, he did two videos for MyMusicMasterclass.com that covered topics such as rhythmic displacement, playing ahead of/on top of/behind the beat, tapping,

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rhythmic independence, articulation, versatility, on-the-gig advice, pedal tones, chords, and of course — his ferocious right-hand technique. We asked him for a few pearls of wisdom. Keep your ears open. “One of the things I say to people in all my clinics is that when you arrive at the studio, pay attention to all the conversations that the producers are having with the other musicians, or the artist is having with other musicians, because it will inform how your part fits or doesn’t.” Pick target notes. “One of the important things I learned in Berklee is that when you have a very difficult part, pick your target notes and play those target notes perfectly in


Abraham Laboriel

time — the rest of the band will play the other notes.” Hear the big picture. “Here’s another thing Steve Gadd said that has guided me: When he plays, he thinks of the music and how what he’s doing affects the music. He’s always listening to the music, not thinking about doing ratamacues or paradiddles.” Use other flavors. “I’ve listened to a lot of ethnic music, and I try to incorporate as much as I can. But it didn’t work with Joe Sample, because he would say, ‘Abraham, I’m from Texas. I need to hear the one, and I need to have the downbeat.’” Don’t lose the intensity. “We have developed a very bad habit as human beings in terms of dynamics. Instinctively, loud means fast and soft means slow. You should be able to play soft without losing intensity.” Be a whole person. “Sometimes, when you develop one area of your life, you neglect others. And that’s not good. A pastor, God bless him, told me, ‘Just because you are an entertainer does not give you the right to require everybody else to treat you as if you are privileged.’ We need to learn to be people, and you need to enjoy being a person with other people.” Watch out for carpal tunnel. “I had lost the feeling in my right hand; when I would shake it, it would come back. The main

problem was with my left hand, though. My first instrument was the Goya, and it had a small neck; when I started to play other basses, made for upright players, I had to open up and bend my wrist. “God bless my wife. She read an article about this neurologist in Boston named Fred Hochberg who had developed a specialty in musicians’ hand problems. He had me bring my basses to the appointment with him, and he noticed that when I played the Goya, I didn’t bend my wrist, but with wider necks, I did. His advice? ‘Tell bass manufacturers to make you instruments that don’t require you to bend your wrist. And if you’re going to play a really wide bass [neck], play it in such a way that instead of playing chords all the way from the top to the bottom, find all the chords that don’t require you to bend your wrist.’ He gave me a couple of exercises, which I learned. The carpal tunnel has never come back. “Another very important thing he told me was that the moment the string touches the frets, there is sound, so whether you have to play very loudly or very softly, the pressure [exerted by the fretting hand] doesn’t need to change. All of his advice was very practical.” Groove! “My personal philosophy has always been the groove is everything. The most important thing is groove.”

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Abraham & Friends With Justo Almaro

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ome session musicians avoid nurturing a solo career, preferring to avoid the spotlight, while others prioritize self-expression away from the studio. Miraculously, Abraham Laboriel has managed to balance a lifetime of session work with a thriving schedule as a leader and co-leader. And of the many wunderkinds with whom Abraham has made music over the years, it’s safe to say that windwood maestro Justo Almario, keyboardist/producer Greg Mathieson, and drummer/producer Bill Maxwell have been his most frequent collaborators. Laboriel met soprano and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist Almario at Berklee in 1969, and he first played with Mathieson while subbing for bassist Joe DiBartolo

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shortly after moving to L.A. in 1976. Working on the Christian compilation album Hosanna for the Maranatha! label in 1979 introduced Abraham to Maxwell and his bandmates Hadley Hockensmith and Harlan Rogers (guitarist and Hosanna producer/keyboardist, respectively). It was only a matter of time before they joined Abraham and percussionist Alex Acuña — and eventually, Almario — in a new group, which Laboriel christened Koinonia. The original seven-piece lineup, which included saxophonist John Philips and L.A. session gun Dean Parks on guitar, debuted in the summer of 1980 at the Baked Potato, launching a weekly Koinonia gig for three straight years. (Abraham chuckles when he


recalls the immense popularity of the band’s spectacular subs — Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Sample on keys, Steve Gadd on drums, Ernie Watts on sax, Paulinho DaCosta on percussion, and John Patitucci on bass.) After Koinonia disbanded in 1991, Laboriel embarked on a robust solo career, usually accompanied by Almario, Mathieson, Maxwell, or all three. Here’s an introduction to Abraham’s projects as leader and co-leader. Koinonia, More Than a Feeling (1983) Three years after the band’s birth, the Koinonia recipe — feel-good jazz-funk with joyful Latin flavors and a mix of ballads and mid-tempo groovers — finally makes it onto record. Laboriel is up in the mix and prominent on every track, lending vocals to the sweet “Divina” and soloing on “Valentine.” Highlights include the catchy “Funky Bumpkins.” Koinonia, Celebration (1984) On Almario’s debut with the band (and their first without Parks and Philips), Koinonia throws down live in Sweden. “We had such a great time in Scandinavia, especially Sweden,” remembers Laboriel. “There were 14,000 people at the show, and it was incredible to hear them sing the melodies back to us.” Search YouTube for Scandinavium, shot in 1983, and Celebration: Live at Montreux 1984 to see Abraham leave it all onstage. Koinonia, Frontline (1986) On the band’s second studio album, named for the Bible reference about musicians being the frontline of the Lord’s army, the synths and guitars are occasionally a bit edgier, but the basic aesthetic is intact. The gorgeous “You Can’t Hide” is a classic; Laboriel’s exciting intro to “Chuncho” is one for the ages, and his vocals elevate “Señor” and “Making Room.” Koinonia (1989) The band’s last album, featuring singer Lou Pardini, signals a new direction: mostly vo-

cal tunes, fewer acoustic textures, no involvement from Acuña and Hockensmith, and worst of all, no Laboriel solos. Fortunately, Compact Favorites (1989) and Pilgrim’s Progression: The Best of Koinonia (1991) offer an overview of the band’s funky, soulful decade. Abraham Laboriel, Dear Friends (1993) Laboriel’s solo debut is a party with a long list of all-star friends (hence its title), including Al Jarreau, Philip Bailey, the Grusin brothers, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, Steve Gadd, and Abe Jr. Standout moments include “Look at Me,” with Laboriel on lead vocals and a smokin’ fretless solo, an oddtime Brazilian jam with Jarreau (“Samba 7”), the organ-drenched “My Joy is You,” and Laboriel’s smooth, glissando-rich solo on “Arroyo.” Abraham Laboriel, Guidum (1994) With just Abe Jr. on drums, Mathieson on keys, and Almario on flute, soprano sax, and tenor sax, Guidum boasts bigger, bolder flavors, soaring unison lines with Almario, killer synth bass, and in-your-face solos. “Everyone was in celebration mode,” says Laboriel, who stakes out original territory on tracks like “Let My People,” the emotional “Guidum,” and “Exchange,” which perfects a solo style and texture later adopted by Thundercat. The back-and-forth between Abe Sr. and Abe Jr. on “Bebop Drive” is a stone-cold highlight, and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” by old Laboriel friend Henry Mancini, is the perfect way to end this audacious, soulful outing. Various artists, Mathieson, Laboriel, Landau, Colaiuta: Live at the Baked Potato (2001) Various artists, Mathieson, Laboriel, Landau, Laboriel Jr: The Jazz Ministry—Another Night at the Baked Potato (2005) Listening to Abraham channel music onstage with some of the world’s baddest musicians at L.A.’s famed Baked Potato is a

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Abraham Laboriel Abraham Laboriel & Friends, Live in Switzerland (2005) This disc finds Laboriel, Vinnie Colaiuta, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., and keyboardist Tom Brooks on a Christ-centered 2003 gig before an enthusiastic Zurich audience. Abraham calls it a “special document of the bond between me and Vinnie,” and on tunes like Jackson’s funky “On Eagle’s Wings” and an explosive version of “Guidum,” they are indeed synced at the hip. As always, Abraham’s between-song banter is not to be missed.

With Bill Maxwell

masterclass in group synergy, deep listening, four-way dynamics, and chops in the service of the song. “Greg [Mathieson] is usually very organized and structured,” says Laboriel, “but for these albums, he decided to not tell anyone what to play. He would count things off, and what happened next was a surprise to all of us.” The results are impressive and frequently incredible. 3 Prime (2001) “It’s difficult to find people who know how to play ‘spang-alang’ the right way,” Laboriel says, referring to the jazz subgenre based on a specific ride-cymbal pattern. Abraham mentions how much he enjoyed his straightahead time with renowned pianist/saxophonist/clarinetist Tom Ranier and Berklee classmate/Abe Jr. drum teacher Peter Donald. The depth of their connection is evident on songs like the uptempo “You Stepped out of a Dream,” the timeless “All the Things You Are,” and the contemplative “Blue Daniel.”

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Open Hands (2009) In 2010, Laboriel, Almario, Mathieson, and Maxwell were filmed recording at Hollywood’s Schnee Studio for National Geographic Weekend. The resulting three-part documentary on YouTube, a window into the spirit of four world-class pros who still play with the enthusiasm and energy of newbies, is a perfect accompaniment to Open Hands’ eponymous 2009 album, as well as previous collaborations such as Justo Almario & Abraham Laboriel (1995) and Laboriel Mathieson (2001). “When we get together, it’s breathtaking,” says Abraham. What’s next for Laboriel? For starters, a new trio with 3 Prime mastermind Tom Ranier and movie veteran Steve Shaeffer, best known for his drumming on film scores like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Forrest Gump, and Toy Story. “We don’t have a name yet, but we’re thinking of calling it TSA, for Tom, Steven, and Abraham,” Laboriel jokes. He’s teaching lessons again, and now that his energy is returning after his bout with cancer, he’s looking forward to connecting with fans on social media. As for his own film work, Abraham — who has just finished working on upcoming Spider-Man and Frozen movies in addition to laying down bass lines for a Lion King-based theme park — confirms that his schedule is filling up. “The people I’m working with like what I do, and they say there is so much more,” he says, smiling. “The future is bright.”


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Abraham Laboriel

Showtime At The Write-Off A rhythm section par excellence: James Gadson and Abe (photo by E.E. Bradman)

76

T

he Write-Off Room, a low-key Woodland Hills venue that’s 15 minutes from Abraham Laboriel’s house in Tarzana, bills itself as “a place for good people and good music.” On this Thursday night in April, the vibe is right: The bar is hip, the staff is friendly, the stage is nice, and the sound system is impressive. My wife, a pianist and songwriter who has heard me talk about Laboriel nonstop for the past few days, settles in with me near the front. Abraham is particularly excited about tonight’s show; because of health issues, this will be the first time in weeks that this group of friends will be onstage together. In 2016, after bouncing back from a knee replacement due to arthritis, Laboriel was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of

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the bone-marrow cells. He’s in good spirits, though, and he tells me that he’s responding well to cutting-edge treatment. (“If I’d gotten this kind of cancer even just five years ago,” Laboriel says, “it could’ve been ‘curtains.’”) During the two-week stem-cell transplant process, Mateo and Abe Jr. had visited Abe and his wife Lyn in a private bungalow on the hospital’s campus, laughing and making music. “What a difference the love and the music made for him to get through that,” says Lyn. “He is now in complete remission and full of joy and energy.” The show starts right on time, and we are immediately struck by the caliber of the musicians. We recognize James Gadson, of course — the groovemeister for everyone from Dyke & the Blazers and Bill Withers to


Abraham Laboriel

Movie Bass: 5 Times Abe Made Your Kid’s Popcorn Taste Better Incredibles 2, 2018 The Mission: Impossible/007-flavored throwback magic — and Abraham’s low-end gifts — showcased on The Incredibles continues on tracks like “Consider Yourself Undermined,” “Diggin’ the New Digs,” “Incredits 2,” “Here Comes Elastigirl — Elastigirl’s Theme,” “Chill or Be Chilled — Frozone’s Theme,” “Pow! Pow! Pow! — Mr. Incredible’s Theme,” and “DevTechno!”

“Hopps Goes (After) the Weasel,” “The Naturalist,” “Weasel Shakedown,” and “Three-Toe Bandito.”

Inside Out, 2015 It’s a lesson in orchestration and mixing to hear Laboriel’s contribution to evocative tracks like “Team Building,” “Overcoming Sadness,” “First Day of School,” “Memory Lanes,” “The Forgetters,” “Abstract Thought,” “Dream a Little Nightmare,” “Escaping the Unconscious,” and “The Joy of Credits.”

The Incredibles, 2004 On Giacchino’s retro-flavored soundtrack for this acclaimed Pixar film, Laboriel brings humor and bounce to tracks like “Glory Days,” “Life’s Incredible Again,” “Off to Work,” “Escaping Nomanism,” “Saving Metroville,” and “The Incredits.”

Zootopia, 2015 Abraham gets to groove hard on tracks like “Ticket to Write,” “Jumbo Pop Hustle,” “Walk and Stalk,”

Ratatouille, 2007 Laboriel is up in the mix and indispensable on tracks like “Wall Rat,” “Cast of Cooks,” “Souped Up,” “A New Deal,” “Remy Drives a Linguini,” “Colette Shows Him Le Ropes,” “Special Order,” and “End Creditouilles.”

All tracks mentioned are on Spotify CHECK IT OUT

CHECK IT OUT

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Abraham Laboriel

DEEP CUTS: 25 More Great Abe Performances You Might Have Missed 1. Sylvia St. James, “If You Let Me Love You” 2. Brenda Russell, “Lucky” 3. Bobby King, “Fool for the Night” 4. David Benoit, “Freedom at Midnight” 5. Dianne Reeves, “Hello, Haven’t I Seen You Before” 6. Djavan, “Capim” 7. Jimmy Smith, “Give Up the Booty” 8. Koinonia, “Chuncho” 9. Kelly Willard, “Blame It on the One I Love” 10. Larry Carlton, “Where Be Mosada?” 11. Laura Allen, “Opening Up to You” 12. The Manhattan Transfer, “(Wanted) Dead or Alive” 13. Rubén Blades, “Chameleons” 14. David Shire, “Manhattan Skyline” 15. Olivia Newton-John, “Toughen Up” 16. Tania Maria, “Funky Tamborim” 17. Lee Ritenour, “Mr. Briefcase” 18. Andraé Crouch, “Handwriting on the Wall” 19. The Winans, “Restoration” 20. Randy Crawford, “You Might Need Somebody” 21. Jennifer Warnes, “When the Feeling Comes Around” 22. Jennifer Warnes, “Tell Me Just One More Time” 23. Joe Sample, “Carmel” 24. Khaled, “Walou Walou” 25. Marc Jordan, “Generalities”

Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and for one glorious video, Vulfpeck — but a quick Google search reveals that keyboardist Mike Finnegan’s 50-year resumé includes one-name-only icons like Hendrix, Etta, Cher, and Ringo, as well as acronyms like CS&N and TOP. The guitarist, it turns out, is Write-Off Room owner Bill Lynch, who has shared the stage with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bruce Willis. Clearly, Abraham is in exalted company. There’s nothing stuffy, however, about the music or the musicians. Like an old-school Cadillac in tip-top condition, the quartet glides

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smoothly through two sets of blues chestnuts, vintage shuffles, R&B classics, and familiar-sounding originals with nary a flashy, unnecessary lick. Individually and as an ensemble, they groove with confidence and ease, occasionally stepping on the gas but more often than not cruising with the top down. They are also having a ton of fun. “That’s what we all hope to grow up to be — high-level pros who can treat the stage as if it was a living room,” says my wife. I couldn’t agree more. Laboriel, sitting on a stool in front of his charts, is the only one who doesn’t take a turn at the mic. He’s deeply attuned to everything his bandmates do, and I chuckle when I think about how much flak he caught back in the day for his thin tone; tonight, his Yamaha 5 might as well be a P-Bass with flats and a piece of foam. The crowd, which seems filled with industry folks, musicians, and fans who all recognize each other, breaks into “Go, Abe! Go, Abe! Go, Abe!” when he stands up to solo. Shooting past the 12th fret, he digs into his repertoire of syncopated strums and slaps, reminding me that despite his status as one of the O.G. fusion bass gods, he has far fewer imitators than contemporaries like Jaco, Stanley Clarke, or Larry Graham. Before long, Laboriel is singing and dancing while trading fours with Gadson, carried along by Lynch and Finnegan as he brings his solo to a rousing climax that elicits applause, whoops, hollers, and camera flashes. At the end of the night, Abraham is all smiles. He packs his basses, gathers his charts, and after a few hugs and photos with fans, heads to his car. We stand by the driver’s-side door to see him off, and he thanks us effusively for making the trek from Culver City. He’s still blown away that Gadson had expressed in no uncertain terms just how much he had enjoyed playing with Abraham that night. Beaming, Laboriel begins pulling away as we walk back to the bar, then suddenly stops and gets out. He’d left his charts on the roof of the car. Laughing at himself and waving goodbye, he tosses the folder on the seat and gets back in, speeding off into the night. l


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Complete Transcription

MUSIC OF HIS MIND

Andy West’s “Zen Walk” By Stevie Glasgow

F Andy West & Craig Pallett, Zen Walk [2019]

80

ollowing the dissolution of pioneering fusion band Dixie Dregs in the early 1980s, Andy West, the group’s co-founding bassist, found himself at a fork in the road. In a novel twist, he walked down both paths simultaneously, carving out a successful career as a software developer while continuing to record and perform with a host of diverse musicians, including Mike Keneally, Vinnie Moore, and Henry Kaiser. West has also released sides with his own groups, Zazen, FWAP, and Rama1. Recently, the Arizona native teamed up with composer/arranger Craig Pallett to release a fivetrack mini-album, Zen Walk. Andy picks up the story: “I’ve known Craig for going on 25 years now. A long time ago, I played on his album YNOT, and we’ve always stayed in touch. When he asked me to do something on another of his projects recently, I suggested we do an album together.” The resulting download-only album is a meticulously crafted, synth-friendly offering, often evoking such electronica icons as Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre — but with West’s expert hands on the low-end tiller. “The music is really designed for you to close your eyes and listen, and see where it takes you,” he says. “It’s not so much about nodding your head into a groove; it’s more like putting your mind into a space.”

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We’ve transcribed the title track, “Zen Walk,” a seven-minute number that unfolds slowly through nuanced repetition, multilayered instrumentation, and detailed arrangement. “I don’t even know what style you’d call it, but it certainly isn’t anything that’s super-fashionable,” says Andy. “There’s a lot of synth, orchestration, and live playing as well. It’s kind of weird,” he laughs. To record his part, West played an order-made Geoff Gould 6-string fitted with EMG pickups and La Bella Limited Edition Super Polished Pure Nickel strings, which he plucked with a .71mm Gator Grip pick. He plugged into a Behringer audio interface and recorded directly into Logic Pro on a 2008 Mac Pro. “I never use an amp. I always go direct and use plugins to adjust the tone. I just don’t see a reason to record with amps anymore.” (Note: Although Andy played his part on a 6-string bass, we’ve tabbed the part for a 5.) Interestingly, West initially composed his part sitting in front of the computer without a bass. He explains: “If I’m sitting at the computer and it’s a bunch of chords I don’t know, I’ll hear a line in my head and then put that into the computer to hear what it sounds like. It’s usually a very keyboard-like line, so when I start to play it, it feels weird under my fingers. But I need to make it more like a bass line, and that’s when it starts to morph into


GO-TO GEAR

F

or the Zen Walk album, Andy West used a 6-string built by Modulus Graphite founder Geoff Gould. “We’ve been friends since the late ’80s, when he got me into playing a 6-string,” West explains. “I’ve had about eight of his basses over the years. I had him make this one specifically for the Dregs tour I did last year. I played a 4-string on all the Dregs stuff, but there’s a lot of notes in those tunes, so when I went back to relearn them I changed some of the fingerings to work on the 6-string. It’s got a tighter spacing than most 6’s, with the width of a 5-string neck.” Strings “I’ve been using La Bella for a long time now. I used to use the exposed-core Super Steps; I still have them on a couple of my basses. When we were doing the Dregs reunion tour, I was listening to my original tracks, which were done on the Steinberger or the Alembic. When I played the Alembic, 40 years ago, I used groundwound strings — GHS Bright Flats. They had the

kind of bite I liked, but they were also smooth and flat. Before we toured, I was talking to Richard at La Bella, and I said, ‘Do you make any kind of half-groundwound strings?’ and he turned me on to their Limited Edition Super Polished Pure Nickel strings. They’re very similar to a bright flatwound, but very smooth, and really nice.” Picks “I previously used .88 Jim Dunlop picks, which are stiff enough to get some bite but flexible enough to play really fast. But now I use .71mm Gator Grip picks. For me, a pick has to have enough bend so I can quickly cross strings when I need to, but it’s got to be able to dig in, too. I don’t really like a super-plucky sound, but I do like a clear pick sound. I learned how to pick from Steve Morse. His whole thing has always been up-and-down picking, even when crossing strings. I never learned the technique to his level, but I was fast enough to play the parts I needed to play. In the past few years, though, I’ve also put some time into economy picking, and I think there’s a lot to it.”

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81


Andy West Transcription

something else. As I start to write stuff on the bass, I’ll put that into the sequence, too, and hear how it sounds.” The track unfolds with rhythmic synthstabs and light percussion, bolstered in bar 7 by West’s authoritative low C. The song kicks into gear at letter A, as Andy unboxes a flowing, 16th-based line that subtly outlines a Cm7 sound (C, Eb, G, Bb ) over the synths’ prevailing C minor substructure. (The Grammy-nominated West refers to this section as “verse A.”) The first harmonic change comes at B, a seven-bar subsection that Andy calls “verse B.” Here, he grounds the initial IV chord (Fm) in bar 24 with a strong root note, before constructing a staggered, arching line, fashioned around the chord tones of Fm and Bb7 (hinting at a possible II–V–I progression in Eb major that never materializes). Letters C and D are gently refigured versions of A and B, leading — via a slightly tricky segue in bar 50 — to the first of two piano-centered interludes (letter E). Explains Andy: “The piano player is a guy called Steve Kaplan, who died tragically in his

TAB NOTES

A

ndy West recorded his bass part for “Zen Walk” section by section via a series of punch-ins. Therefore, the suggested fingerings, especially between sections, may not feel entirely natural as you work your way through the track. Bear in mind that the tab — notated with an eye on minimizing left-hand fatigue due to the stretches involved —represents merely one possible way to play the song; feel free to find your own alternatives. For the intrepid among you, try starting from letter A with your 1st finger at the 3rd fret; it’s possible to play most of the song in this position with only a few shifts, if your left hand can take the strain. Observes West: “I never actually played ‘Zen Walk’ all the way through, top to bottom. My ‘normal’ fingering is to avoid open strings, but if I was to do that song live, I’d probably use a lot of 1st-position fingering. Normally, I’d use fingers one, two, and four when playing Bb– C–D on the A string, for example. But for this piece, it’s a lot easier to play that using the open D string.”

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40s. He had played on some of the songs with Craig, and his recorded MIDI parts became the genesis for the whole thing.” (The album is dedicated to Kaplan’s memory.) During this section (E), West dials his part down to match the half-time feel of the drums, employing more eighth-notes and initially cutting back on syncopation. Note how he harmonically enlivens the piano’s simple triadic chords to great effect, such as in bar 51, where he superimposes an Fm6 vibe over the Gm keyboard chord. Dig also the introduction of chromaticism in bars 53–54, an idea he develops later. Letters F and G revisit “verses A and B,” heralding in a finger-twisting chromatic section (H) that brazenly stretches the underlying Cm harmony. “That was a tricky section to do. I wanted it to warp sonically and pitchwise, but I didn’t want it to be too dissonant. Being in the Dregs for so many years, I guess I’ve just been imbued with [guitarist] Steve Morse’s chromatic style.” A further reiteration of “verse B” (letter I) steers proceedings toward a second piano-centered interlude at J. Although bars 99–106 use the same chords as the first interlude (E), observe how West reinvents his line through changes in pacing and note choice, tempering his part to match the mood of the developing piano lines; the low pedal C under the Ab–Gb–Ab chords in bars 107–109 is particularly noteworthy. Harmonically, K and L are akin to previous “verses,” but again, West conjures a fresh approach (note the deliberate lack of 16ths) that helps build anticipation as the song heads toward the conclusion. As we swing into M, the outro, Andy puts his foot to the floor, subtly recasting previous material to create a series of rising-and-falling 16thbased phrases, ultimately driving the song to a juddering climax in bars 163–165. “That ending was very intentional. I wanted it to feel like a machine was running out of gas or something, but not in a bad way. I didn’t just wing it; I had a conscious idea of what I wanted it to be.” Today, Andy has a renewed zest for music. “I feel like I know how to do three dif-


Andy West Transcription

ferent things: I can play in the Dregs; I can do stuff like Zen Walk, which I love harmonically and is very orchestrated and composed; and then I can do the kind of out-there stuff like [experimental rock band] the Mistakes, for which you have to have a lot of facility. I appreciate all those things, but I just don’t know how to make a living doing any of it.”

he laughs. “Since the Dregs reunion thing came back up [in 2018], I’ve been focusing on that, and on music, a lot more. My full-time software job ended around the time that the Dregs were picking up again, so that worked out. Now I’m into a whole different phase. I may do more software stuff, but right now I’m focused on music.” l

Zen Walk By Andy West | Transcribed by Stevie Glasgow Swung funk = 96

(Cm)

Intro

A

3 3 3 1

3

1

Cm

3

1 3 3

0

3 1

0

1 3

3

3 1 3 1 3

0

3 1

1 3

3

1 3

1

*Chord symbols reflect underlying harmony 11

3 3 1

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1 3

0

3 1

1 3 1

3

3

1 3

1

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

3 1

3

1 3 3 1

3 1 3

1 3

1 0

15

3 3 3 1

3

1 3

1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

1 3 1 3

0

3 1

3

1

3

1

1 3

3 3 3 1

3

1 3

3

3 1

3

1 3 3

18

3 1

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1 3

1

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

3 1

B

22

3 1

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1 3

1

3 1

3

1

0

1

3

1

4

3

1 3 3 1

3 1 3

1 3

1 0

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

Fm

1 3 4 6 4 6

3

6

3 6

3

3

6 5 3

6 3 6

3

6 5

bassmagazine.com ; ISSUE 4 ; BASS MAGAZINE

6 4 5

83


Andy West Transcription

26

Fm

Bb

5

6

3

6

3 6 3 6

8

6 3 6

8 8

6

3 6

8 8

C

30

3

6 5 3

3

6 3 6

6 3

6 4

8

6 3 6 3

8 8

6 3

8

6 3

6

3

3

6

3

6 5

6 3

4

6

3

4

6

3 6

3

Cm7

3 3 3 1

6

8

3

1 3

1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

3 1

3

1 3

3 1

3 1 3

1 3

1 0

33

3 3 3 1

3

1 3

1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

1 3 1 3

0

3 1

3

1

3

1 3

1

3 3 3 1

1 3

3

3

3 1

1 3 3

3

36

3 1

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1 3

1

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

D

40

3 1

44

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1 3

1

3 1

1

3

0

1

3

1

4

Bb

6

84

3 1

5

3

1 3 3 1

3 1 3

1 0

1 3

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

Fm

1 3 4 6 4 6

3

6

3 6

3

3

6 5 3

6 3 6

3

6 5

6 4 5

Fm

3

6

3 6 3 6

8

6 3 6

8 8

6

3 6

8 8

6 3 6 3

8

8

6 3

3 3

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com

6 3

4 3

6 6

6

3 4

3 6 3

3

6 3

6 3

6

4

3

6

3 6

3


Andy West Transcription

Cm

48

E

3 3

3

6 3 6

Fm

52

3

3

6 3 6

3 5 3

Ab

4

3

4

6

Fm

56

5

6

6

3

5

Bb

4

3 6

6 5 4 3

6 3

6

3

6

3 4 6

4

3

6

4

3

7 6

3 6

3

4 6

6

Gm

6 4 4 3

6 6

3 4

Ab

3 4 5 6 7

3

6

3

4

6

6

3 4 6

3 5

6

Gm

6

3 6 3

5

3 6 3 6

3 5 6

Fm/C

6

6 6 4 6 3 6 6

3

6

3 3 3 3 3

1

1

3 1 1 1

3

3 3 3 3 3

1

3 3 1 1

1

Cm

Bb

60

Ab

Fm

Bb

6

3 3

6 4 3 4 6

Cm

6 4

Ab

3

3 6

Fm

1 1 1 1

3 1 3

3 3

1 1 1 1

3 3 3

3 3

3 1 3

1

3

1

3

1

3 3 3 3 3

3 1 1 1

1

3

1

3 3 3 3 3

3 3 1 1

1

64

3 3

67

3 3 1

1 3 1

3

3 3

3

3 3

3 3

3

3

3 3

3 3 1

3

1

3 1

3

3

0 1 0

3

1

3

3

3 1

1 3

1

F

3 3 3 1

3

1 3

1 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

1 3 1 3

0

3 1

3

1

3

1 3

1

3 3 3 1

3

1 3

3

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1 3 3

85


Andy West Transcription

70

3

1

3

1 3 1 3 1

3

1

1 3

3 3 3 1

1 3

3

1 3 3 1

1 3 3

3

3 1

3

1 3

G

73

3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3 3 1

3

1 3 3

3 1

1 3 1 3 1

3

3

6 5 3

6 3 6

3

6 5

6 4 5

6

1 3 1

1

3

0

1

3

1

4

5

1 3

3 1 3

1 0

Fm

3

1 3 4 6 4 6

6

3 6

3

Fm

6 4

6

4

6

4 6 4

6

4 6 6 4

6

4 6 6 4

6

4

6

6

6 4

3 6

6 3

4 3

6 6

6

3 4

3 6 3

H Cm

81

4x

3

6 3

4

6

4

3

6

3 6

3

3 3 2 0 1 0

I

90

3 3 2 0 1 0

3

1 0

4 3

1 2 3 2

3

1 0

5

1 2 3 2

4 3

3 2 1 0 2 3

1 2 1 0

3

1 2 3 1

Fm

1

3 4 6 4

Bb

6

86

1 3

Bb

77

93

3

3 1

6

3

6

3 6

3

3

6 5 3

6 3 6

3

6 5

6 4

5

Fm

3

6

3 6 3 6

8

6 3 6

8 8

6

3 6

8 8

6 3 6 3

8

8

6 3

3 3

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com

6 3

4 3

6 6

6

3 4

3 6 3

3

6 3

6 3

6

4

3

6

3 6

3


Andy West Transcription

Cm

97

3 3

6 3 6

Fm

101

3

6

5

6 3 6

3 5 3

Ab

3 3

Bb

3

6 3 6

6

Cm

3

106

3

3

4

6

4

4

4

6 5

Bb

1

6

6

Ab

1

1

1 3

1 3

1

3

4 6

6 3 6

3 5 3

Fm

S

6

Fm

J

6

Gb

3

6

Ab

3

6

6

4

Ab

4 6

3

4

Gm

6 4 4 6

4 4

6

4

3

5

6

K

6

3

3 6

5 3

Ab

3

6

4

4

3

4

Cm

3

1

3

Fm

3

Ab

3 5

3 5

Gm

3

Bb

1

3

3

3 1 3

3

3

3

1 3

1

3

125

3

1 3

3

3 1

3

3

3

1 3

3

1

3

3

1 3

3

1 3

1 3

1 3

1

3

3

1 3

3

1 3

3

3

1 3 1 3

3

1

131

3

137

L

1 3

3

3

1

3

3

1 3

1 3

3

3

3

Fm

3

3 6

1 3

3 1

3

3

3

1 3

3

1

3

3

1 3

Bb

3

3 6 3

3

3

6

3

6 3

6

3

M

6

4 6

6

4

3

6

6

4

6

3 5

1 3

1 3

1 3

0 2

Fm

8

8 6

8 6

8

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6 9

6

8

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Andy West Transcription

Bb

146

8 5

6

8

8 6 5

6 4 6

8

Fm

8 6 5

6

8

8

6 8 6 5

6 4 6

8 8 6

8 6

8

8 6 8

6

8

6 8

8

8 6 5

6

8

8

6 8 6 5

6 4 6

8

8

8 6

8 6

8

6 9

6 8

Fm

6

8

6

8

6

8 8

8 8 6

8 8

8 8 6 6

8 8 6 8

6

8

Bb

154

8 5

8 6

8

6 8

6 9

6 8

Fm

6 5 6 8

6

8

8 8 6 6

8

6 8 6

8 8 6

8 8

8 8 6 6

6

8 8 6 8

8

8 5

8 6

8

6 8

6 9

6 8

Bb

158

8 6 5

6

8

8

6 8 6 5

6 4

6

8

6 5 6 8

6

8

8 8 6 6

Fm

8 5

88

6 8 6

8

Bb

150

161

6 8

6 5 6 8

8

6

8 6

8 8 6

6

1 3

8 8

8 8 6 6

Bb

8 6

8

6 8

6 9

6 8

8 6 5

8

6

8

6 8 6 5

6 4 6

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6

6

1 3

1

1

8 8 6 8

6

8


Jump Head

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Gear Shed

Markbass

LITTLE MARK VINTAGE 500-WATT HEAD By Rod C. Taylor

WHILE THERE IS STILL A HOST of large, heavy bass amps out there that require significant muscle to move, most players, like myself, have embraced the small, lighter Class D amps that take up very little real estate and pack enough of a punch to play most small to medium-size venues. One of the main benefits of their size is their mobility. I’ve toured Europe a few times with this size of amp

90

stashed in my gig bag. I needed a cabinet to be backlined, but I always knew what kind of head I was going to be working with for the gig. Respected Italian amp and cabinet builder Markbass has been participating in this small-amp market for some time via its “Little Mark” series; the most recent offering, the Little Mark Vintage 500, brings together the best of the old and the new.

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Before I get to the actual testing, I want to say that I dig the way this head looks and feels. The vintage-style knobs look cool and roll smoothly, and I appreciate the big master-volume knob (too many master knobs look like every other knob on an amp). The clear window that shows off the tube is the centerpiece, though. I had to see how it looked under stage lighting, so I turned off


SPECS LITTLE MARK VINTAGE Street $800 Pros Legit vintage tones, beautiful aesthetics, tube preamp, real transformer in DI Line Out Cons No onboard mute switch Bottom Line The Little Mark Vintage is a compact but powerful amp with classic tones and stylish looks. all the lights in my studio to check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. True, how an amp looks matters little when compared to how it sounds, but I like rigs that look good on stages small enough where the audience can check out your gear. The soft orange glow of the input jack and preamp tube looks great. With “Vintage” in the amp’s name, I felt that it was only fair to test out the head with my ’76 Fender Jazz Bass, so I hooked the head up to an Aguilar GS 410 (a 4Ω cabinet). I began with the EQ settings at 12:00 and the 3-way front-panel tone-selector switch set to old, which is where I left it for most of the testing. I tried out the flat and cut settings, but I enjoyed the tone created by the old setting most, at least for this bass. It offered plenty of bottom, yet still sounded clear and crisp on the top when I played funk-style lines. The tone overall is as promised: warm, full, and traditional in vibe. A few other front-panel controls offer features that go beyond the usual options. The limiter provides players the rare option to vary the amount of this effect, although I preferred it either all the way on (for a modern, clean tone) or all the way off (for that vintage-style distortion). I also appreciated the DI-level option, for those times when you want to regulate how

much signal you are sending to the front of house; I’ve played small clubs where that mattered to the sound engineer. The front-panel footswitch option, fsw, can be used with the Markworld Footswitch Dual for muting the amp and/or engaging/disengaging the 4-band EQ. Herein lies my only issue with the amp: I prefer an amp to have an onboard mute option. I don’t want to have to attach a pedal to the amp to mute it. The Little Mark Tube amp has a “pull to mute” option built into the master volume knob, so I wondered why that isn’t offered here. It would be great to see it added on later versions. Whereas the name of this amp implies it was designed for players looking for an old-school tone and vibe, rest assured it can deliver for modern-genre players, as well. For part of the test, I plugged in my Alleva-Coppolo LM-4 with active electronics, which I use for a variety of modern-style gigs, and I was quite pleased with the results. Still, if you are like me and still have your record player in use, have vintage instruments in your arsenal, and think James Jamerson and Chuck Rainey should be declared national heroes, then you will surely want to give the Little Mark Vintage a test spin. It will take you back musically to a place that inspires us all. l

SPECS Inputs ¼"; 500kΩ Outputs ¼", Speakon; xlr balanced DI out (600Ω); ¼" tuner out Effect loop Unbalanced; return impedance 33kΩ Front-panel controls Gain (–46dB–+23dB), master volume, DI level, limiter (0–max), 3-way flat/cut/old switch Rear-panel controls Ground-lift switch, pre/post EQ switch EQ Low, ±16dB @ 68Hz; low mid, ±16dB @ 400Hz; high mid, ±16dB @ 2.2kHz; high, ±16dB @ 10kHz Power 500 watts rms @ 4Ω, 300 watts rms @ 8Ω Weight 5.5 lbs Dimensions 10.87" x 3.27" x 9.84" Made in Designed in Italy, Assembled in Indonesia Contact markbass.it

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Gear Shed

New York Bass Works

RS5-22 5-STRING & RS4-22 4-STRING BASSES By Jonathan Herrera

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SPECS NEW YORK BASS WORKS RS4-22 & RS5-22 Street $3150.00 (RS4-22), $4650 (RS5-22) Pros Responsive; excellent ergonomics; balanced and elegant sound Cons The RS5-22’s knob arrangement may prove cumbersome Bottom Line Builder David Segal clearly knows his Jazz Basses. The Reference Series evokes the best of the breed while introducing a few thoughtful modern upgrades. SPECS Construction Bolt-on  Body RS5-22, ash; RS4-22, alder Neck  Maple Fingerboard  RS5-22, maple; RS422, rosewood (graphite-reinforced w/ single-action trussrod) Frets 22 (RS5-22, ’70s-style medium; RS4-22, ’60s-style small) Bridge  Hipshot Tuners  Hipshot Scale Length  RS5-22, 34.5"; RS422, 34" Pickups  RS5-22, Aguilar J-style; RS4-22, Dimarzio J-style Weight  Approx. 9 lbs, 12 oz Made In  U.S.A. Contact  newyorkbassworks.com AT LONG LAST, I GOT MY HANDS ON two New York Bass Works (NYBW) basses to review. I first heard of the company over a decade ago, back when the world’s best bass magazine came out once a month on paper. For reasons I don’t quite recall, the stars never aligned to see one alight at my office door, but I’ve long held a desire to spend some quality time with the instruments. Perhaps it’s my limitless fascination with Fender-Jazz-type

basses, or the fact that any New Yorkbased luthier enjoys some locational cachet due to the singular demands of the local clientele. Regardless, this review was a long time coming. The two basses here come from NYBW’s Reference Series line. Builder David Segal uses the name to connote the basses’ inspiration in his own collection of reference basses, namely early-’60s “pre-CBS” Fender Jazz Basses. As a player, Segal found

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New York Bass Works

a ton of work through the 1980s wielding these golden-era J basses, and he’s long been fascinated with investigating in detail what makes many of these highly sought-after instruments so successful sonically. While the NYBW instruments’ general aesthetic is clearly J-inspired, neither one is a clone of its ancestral DNA. Knowing that Fenders tend to neck-dive, Segal lengthened the upper horn to improve strap playability and shortened the lower horn to mirror that balance on the lap. To make the B string tauter, RS 5-strings like our tester utilize a 34.5" scale — as far as I’m concerned, a reasonable compromise between the standard length and the too-long-for-me 35" scale that some luthiers favor. The basses are also available with many more options than early-’60s Fender ever had, including fancy tops, numerous pickup and electronic packages, various finishes, and the numerous other de rigueur upgrades customers expect of modern high-end basses.

RS5-22

Like many builders modeling their work on Fender’s iconic formula, NYBW envisions Jazz Basses as fitting into two primary molds. There’s the ’60s-style alder-body/ rosewood-fingerboard format, here embodied by the RS4-22, and the ash-body/maple-fingerboard recipe, as found in our RS5-22 tester. NYBW differentiates the ’70s-ish bass even further, sourcing larger frets than the 4, along with block inlays and a thicker poly-finished neck. My first impression of the RS5 was that per Segal’s design mission, the bass balanced exceptionally well — perfectly, actually. I believe that any energy dedicated to holding up the neck is energy not invested in ac-

94

tual playing, so this is a good thing. The bass was well built, too. It imparts a substantial, high-end vibe, and there’s abundant attention to detail to help justify its lofty price. The hardware is all top-shelf, mostly from Hipshot, and it has one of the most hardcore string trees I’ve ever seen, ensuring that the D and G strings have firm witness points at the nut. The RS5’s electronics are a hybrid of single-coil Aguilar J-style pickups and a new-to-me 3 Leaf Audio Pike Amp Shapeshifter preamp. I’m a fan of 3 Leaf Audio generally, although I was only familiar with the company’s superb stompboxes until now (full disclosure: a Doom Dynamic Harmonic Device is a permanent resident on my pedalboard), so I’m glad to see the company expand into the onboard preamp market. The control cavity was gorgeous, with extensive use of shielding foil to reduce RF interference, threaded brass inserts for the cover screws, and perfectly routed and neatly tiedoff wiring. The RS5 utilizes a volume/volume/tone arrangement coupled with a 3-band preamp. The accompanying switches are for shifting the midrange filter’s center frequency and for switching the bass into passive mode. I am a fan of V/V/T, especially in a J-style bass, but I’m not sure I prefer the choice to place the EQ controls above the more important volume and tone controls. For me, the mildly greater hand precision required to manipulate the V/V/T knobs is a slight inefficiency that would be easily cured by swapping their location with the EQ’s. I am glad, however, that NYBW used smaller knobs for the EQ — that helps. The RS5 arrived with an ultra-low setup that required a slight

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com

trussrod tweak. This is to be expected, given it traveled from balmy New York to my drier Northern California studio. Its playability was excellent, although the neck is not especially Jazz-like. It’s obviously impossible to compare a 5-string to a ’60s Fender, as there’s no comparable historical reference, but I found the neck to be a touch deeper, with a flatter fingerboard, than what one might expect on a J-style bass. The fingerboard radius is in fact compound, meaning it gets flatter in the higher registers — but still, it’s pretty flat down low. The bass has impeccable highfret access, a welcome change from the blocky neck heel characteristic of the Fender design. Overall, I found playing the NYBW to be an altogether pleasant experience, but I would probably not opt for the poly finish on the back of the neck. It’s subjective, but I much prefer the smoother feel of a satin finish (like the one on our 4-string tester). Plugged in, the RS5 immediately impressed with its responsive and immediate attack. Notes veritably leapt off the bass. It felt extremely fast and articulate, great for players seeking dynamic sensitivity and transient response. The tones are certainly drawn from the traditional J-style spectrum, with the soloed bridge burping, the soloed neck barking, and the blended sound offering a balanced and burnished combination. Regardless of pickup position, the NYBW has the zingy highs and slightly hollow mids that are often associated with the ’70s-style J formula (think Marcus Miller). The preamp is musical and well voiced, although users should be judicious with their tweaks, as each filter is immediately impactful even with the slightest twist of the knob. While I don’t think the RS5 sounds much like a vintage


Gear Shed

Fender, it’s an incredibly capable and versatile bass that would easily cop the range of tones needed to cut most gigs. It has the sort of do-anything vibe that made the Jazz Bass famous to begin with, and it’s all delivered in a durably built, luxuriously appointed package.

RS4-22

As opposed to the RS5, the RS4 is much closer related to the reference ’60s Jazz Basses that Segal used to develop the Reference Series line. It’s passive, features a simple bentplate bridge and ’66-Jazz-style lollipop tuners, and most obviously, has four strings and a 34" scale. The RS4’s construction was just as impressive as the RS5, so I won’t waste time trying to dream up a different way to say the same thing. It’s just

heartening when a pricey bass feels and looks pricey. One area I’m glad got the modern update was the control cavity, which is lined with shielding foil, unlike the Fender original. Interestingly, the RS4 didn’t balance quite as well as the RS5, perhaps due to the body’s reduced mass. That isn’t to say it was poorly balanced, merely that it felt more like a traditional Jazz-style bass than the RS5, which seemed to magically strike the right position strapped or lapped. Also notable is that the neck is a touch deeper and thicker than my own ’66 Jazz Bass. While the RS5 is highly responsive, the RS4 is somehow even more so. That responsiveness, coupled with an evenness both note-to-note and string-to-string, is a quality I often admire in my own vintage Fend-

er, and it’s one Segal has obviously decoded to great effect in his Reference Series. The RS4 sounds slightly more scoopy and modern than the full-throated bark of my ’66 J, but just slightly, which might be of value to a player more inclined to utilize a full spectrum of contemporary techniques. I loved the smooth and graceful sound of the RS4’s blended-pickup tone, the delicious and syrupy texture of the neck pickup, and that appropriately aggro bite of the bridge pickup. No matter the pickup setting, the RS4 beguiled me with its colorful, rich, and alive timbre, particularly in the mids, where it matters most. It’s a truly musical instrument that evinces the time and care Segal put into evoking the best of his own reference collection.  l

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P-Bass

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Gear Shed

Reverend

SIGNATURE MIKE WATT WATTPLOWER BASS By Rod C. Taylor

I GOTTA BE STRAIGHT UP — I’M NOT the biggest fan of signature basses. I often find that these instruments have been tweaked aesthetically or electronically so much toward one individual’s preference, they are a bit useless in most contexts. Take the Gene Simmons Axe bass, for example. Unless you’re going onstage with your fellow face-painted rock & roll warriors spewing blood and fire, you’ll just look and sound out of place (but, hey, you’re ready to chop wood when the gig ends). I’ve also seen signature basses that are far too expensive for anyone but a collector; I once reviewed a signature bass that

96

cost over $14,000. Over the years, however, I’ve found some notable exceptions. For example, I am a proud owner of a 1995 Fender Roscoe Beck V, which I will never part with, and the Sire Marcus Miller basses are amazing, as well. Both of these examples follow my three key rules when it comes to designing signature basses: make the instrument friendly to a wide variety of styles, don’t go overboard on the “signature” part regarding looks, and keep it affordable to players on a modest budget. Reverend’s Mike Watt Signature bass, the Wattplower, delivers in two of these areas (subtle signature looks

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com

and affordability), but, in this case, I don’t mind that it has a specific tone, since its aggressive sound casts a wide-enough net within rock genres. If you aren’t familiar with Mike Watt, stop reading and spend a good hour on Spotify familiarizing yourself with his music. Start with the Minutemen records, visit some Firehose and the Stooges, and then dig into Mike’s solo works — he is one prolific player. Once you’ve done that, come back and read on. When I first went play the bass, I noticed that due to the instrument’s shape, the shoulder strap has to connect to the back of the neck joint.


SPECS

Usually I don’t dig this type of setup, as it often makes the bass feel imbalanced, but that didn’t occur here. Everything felt perfectly balanced. If you haven’t played a short-scale instrument, you might think that the shorter neck makes it feel weird, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I own a Danelectro ’58 Longhorn reissue, and I never feel awkward when switching between it and my Fender basses. It’s different, for sure, but not difficult to adjust to at all. The same was true with the Mike Watt bass — I took right to it. The distinctive tone of this instrument definitely pays tribute to Mike’s sound and approach; it’s got growl for miles. No matter how I set the tone knob or where I played in relationship to the pickups, the growl spoke loudly and with attitude. That’s by design, for sure. You’ve got a volume and tone knob, and that’s it. Someone wanting something more subtle or versatile in tone might be unhappy — but then who would be considering this bass who wasn’t into the ethos of its signature artist and the genre in which he performs? As such, I loved it. It begs you to play certain styles of music over others, which was just fine with me. I tried it out on some punk tunes, but I also found it fit well within one of my fa-

vorite genres of all time: ’90s grunge. The Reverend’s pickups are custom, and they sound like it. I discovered that the sweet spot for me was directly over the pickup, as this gave me an even blend of a bass-forward, deep-throated tone combined with an articulation that would cut through the most guitar-heavy of mixes. If I played back by the bridge, like I do on my Jazz Basses, the tone was too lightweight; too much in front of the pickup resulted in a loss of that aggressive articulation I was digging. Through it all, the bass growled no matter the position, whether I played with fingers or with a pick. The bass proved so inspiring to play, I kept it out for a number of days and continued to try it out in various genres. Again, it’s not ideal for more mellow tunes without some thoughtful amp adjustments, but I didn’t mind that. In the end, the bass seemed well suited for gigs that demand an in-your-face aggressive tone on the low end. Also, when playing it, I easily forgot it was a short-scale instrument. That’s how a short-scale bass should be: I don’t want to be constantly thinking about its scale length. The best compliment I can give this instrument is that when I put it back in its case (which is also custom and quite lovely) for shipping back to Reverend, I was a bit sad. While I have a host of nice basses, I have nothing like this, and that’s saying something. Like all well-designed instruments, this one inspires you to explore and test its character through the music you enjoy. So, if you play rock of any style, I encourage you to find a Mike Watt signature Reverend bass in a store near you and explore until you find some new paths in your music. l

REVEREND SIGNATURE MIKE WATT WATTPLOWER BASS Street $1,400 Pros Well balanced, lightweight, beautiful design; awesome bottom-heavy, growling tone Cons Some might object that it does not offer a wide variety of tones, but, as I point out below, that is not negative in this context Bottom Line A kickass, aggressive, short-scale bass that totally delivers. SPECS Body Solid, korina Neck Three-piece korina, medium oval shape, bolt-on Scale length 30" Pickups One P-style, passive Fingerboard Blackwood Tek Fingerboard radius 12" Frets 21, medium-jumbo Nut width 1.65" (42mm) Controls Volume, tone Bridge Hipshot Tuners Hipshot Ultralight Case Hardshell Contact reverendguitars.com

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Jazz Concepts | By John Goldsby

Inside The Changes Of “Confirmation”: A Bebop Étude

IN

1976, I heard the Jaco Pastorius recording of “Donna Lee” from his debut album Jaco Pastorius [Epic/Legacy/Sony]. Jazz educator Jamey Aebersold was holding court in a listening class I was attending — an academic version of what musicians call “hanging out, spinning sides.” I was amazed by Jaco’s effortless rhythmic approach, the fluidity of his lines, and how he got inside the harmony. Jamey’s take on Jaco’s performance was simple: Modern jazz bassists should be able to play solos over complicated chord changes and fast tempos as fluently as horn players. As I continued practicing the jazz language on electric and double bass, I knew it was possible to play intricate bebop lines on unwieldy low-end bass instruments — mainly because Jaco had set the bar high when he recorded alto saxophonist Charlie Parker’s standard “Donna Lee.” Other acoustic and

electric players also thrilled me with their solo techniques: Stanley Clarke, Eddie Gomez, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and Miroslav Vitous. Inspired by these great soloists on acoustic and electric bass, plus all of the incredible players on other instruments, I made a point of learning bebop melodies and solos by Charlie Parker and others, imitating the phrasing and swing of the saxophone, trumpet, and piano, the main solo instruments in bebop ensembles. There are hundreds of standard bebop melodies and chord progressions, and these compositions make up a large part of the jazz repertoire from the mid 1940s through the late ’50s. Let’s look at an étude based on the chord progression of Charlie Parker’s often-played composition “Confirmation.” The form is 32 bars long, AABA, consisting of four eight-bar phrases. The harmony is framed by a series of IIm–V chord sequences moving from the

CO N N E C T

Play along with John’s bebop bass lines and melodies in his new video lesson series at DiscoverDoubleBass. com and johngoldsby.com.

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CHECK IT OUT

Listen to the Warne Marsh Trio featuring Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen playing “Confirmation” [The Unissued Copenhagen Studio Recordings, 1975, Storyville].

CHECK IT OUT

Mr. Sunny Bass fills his YouTube channel with walking bass play-along lines for jazz musicians. Here’s his take on the chord changes to Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation.”

CHECK IT OUT

Forrest and Eric at jazzadvice.com break down how Charlie Parker approaches improvising over “Confirmation.”

CHECK IT OUT

Check out the original: Charlie Parker with Percy Heath on bass, playing “Confirmation” in 1953.

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com


tonic, F major, down to the IV chord, Bb7. The B section (bridge) has two four-bar IIm– V–I sequences, first in Bb (Cm7, F7, Bbmaj7), then in Db (Ebm7, Ab7, Dbmaj7). Note the following: First chorus, walking bass Bars 1–2 Good walking lines often put the root of the chord on the downbeat, as in bar 1. In bar 2, the line moves from the root of the Em7b5 down to the 3rd of the A7 (the note C#), followed by the A root on beat four. Bar 1 sounds stable; bar 2 sounds more melodic. Bar 3 Over the Dm7 to G7, the bass line moves in a melodic pattern (D, F, E, D), ignoring the root of the G7 chord. This is a melodic, scalar approach. The note G could also be used in place of the note E, for a more precise outlining of the root motion. It’s a matter of taste. Bars 7–8 In bar 7, the harmony rests on G7. In bar 8, the Gm7 to C7 leads back to the Fmaj7 in bar 9. Note the difference between bars 7–8 and bars 15–16, the parallel spot in the second A section. Bar 10 The note Bb outlines the b5 of the Em7b5 chord. Moving up this scale with the notes A, Bb, C#, D sounds harmonious. Never play the natural 5th (B) on the Em7b5! Bars 14–15 Playing root-to-leadingtone-to-root is a great way to strongly outline these fast-moving IIm–V sequences.

Bar 17 The B section (also called the bridge) starts with a dotted-eighth-to-16th skip. This rhythmic embellishment is mirrored on beat one in bar 18. Note the three half-steps approaching the root F in bar 18, and the three half-steps approaching the root in bar 19. Bars 19–20 This is a common triplet drop on beat one, followed by a walk-up to the note F (the 5th of the chord). Bars 21–22 The movement from the note Db on the Ebm7 chord to the note C on the Ab7 chord melodically outlines the harmony. Db is the b7th of Ebm7; C is the 3rd of Ab7. This melodic approach adds some variety to the contour of the line. Bar 23 Beginning the line on the note Eb — the 9th of Dbmaj7 — also sounds melodic. The root, Db, lands on beat two. Bars 26–28 The 3rd of the dominant chords in these three measures lands on beat three, followed by the root on beat four. Second chorus, solo line Bars 1–3 The line stays in the key of F major, yet it outlines chord tones in each bar using a descending scale sequence. Bar 4 The note Eb in this bar describes the Cm7. Bar 5 The note Ab in this bar describes the change to Bb7. Bars 7–8 The line lands on the note C#

B A S S I ST S P L AY I N G B E B O P H E A D S ! CHECK IT OUT

CHECK IT OUT

Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, and Stephen Scott play the Charlie Parker standard “Dexterity.” Kinga Głyk plays “Donna Lee” … on a bass ukulele!

CHECK IT OUT

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen plays “Donna Lee” in duo with Joe Pass at a burning tempo.

CHECK IT OUT

Jeff Berlin is grooving — here playing Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High” on his 2010 album High Standards.

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Jazz Concepts

Ex. 1 Med. swing = 80–100

A

Fmaj7

Em7b5 A7

Dm7

G7

Cm7

F7

Bb7

Walking bass line

3

8

5

Gm7

C7

1

3

3

Gm7

15

3

3

2

A

4

5

0

3

5

Fmaj7

2

5

5

3

Fmaj7

2

B

5

4

6

1

3

Em7b5 A7

2

3

C7

4

Cm7

3

3 0

Dm7

G7

5

8

7

Am7

1

1 Cm7

7

5

F7

3

3

5

F7

8

7

D7

6

G7#11

6

5

Bb7

7

8

8

5

2

Am7

6

3

5 1

Bbmaj7

5

D7

1

0

5

5

4

Ebm7

3

4

3

22

3

2

1

Ab7

5

29

3

5

6

Dbmaj7

6

8

8

6

Bb7

3

3

6

0

3

Dm7

2

G7

5

Gm7

8

6

Am7

1

5

3

5

D7

1

0

C7

6

5

Cm7

5

A

4

Gm7

6

2

6

C7

F7

4

5

6

2

Fmaj7

3

5

5

3

3

5

2

6

Em7b5 A7

7

5

7 3

Fmaj7

5

(3) 3

7

2

A

1

6

6

7

7

5

5

G7

3 4

6

Am7

5 3 5

2 5

D7

3

Cm7

5

5

Em7b5

5 2

3

Bb7

Dm7

3

Fmaj7

Solo line

3

2

3

3

6

4

F7

7

100

3

2

5

2 3

2

5

5 6

3 5

2 3

5 3 1

3

BASS MAGAZINE ; ISSUE 4 ; bassmagazine.com

5 3 5 3 2

5 3 2 3 5

G7#11

4

6 5

4

3

A7

3

2

6

2

5

3

3


Jazz Concepts

Gm7

8

C7#11

2

4

Cm7

12

B

3

8 5

27

5

2

3

2

5

5

7

Bb7

6

6

7 4

6

Cm7

5 4 3 1

9 10 6

3 5

3 5

7

3

8 3 4

G7

2

Dm7

12 10

12

11

D7

Gm7

3

5 3 2

6

10

12

C7b13

5 3 2

5 4 3 2

1

5

3 7 6

9

8

Fmaj7

2 5

Bbmaj7

5

5

Ebm7

3

5 6 7 3 4 5

5 6

8

6 3

4 3 4

C

8 6

A

5 4 3 2

3 6

Bb7

6 3 4

5

(the #11) on the G7#11 chord. The note F# in bar 8 anticipates the #11 of the C7#11 chord. Bars 9–10 This is a melodic quote of another bebop standard, “Wail” [Bud Powell, 1952, Blue Note]. Jazz improvisors often quote other melodies during an improvised solo. Bar 18 The groupings of three eighthnotes shift the rhythmic feeling. This happens again in bar 22.

6 5

5

6 8

6 8 10

8 5 6 8 9

Fmaj7

A7

3

F7

3 43

6 8 6 5 3

Gm7

3

5

Cm7

5

10

G7

3

3 1

Dbmaj7

Dm7

12

Am7

F7

Ab7

8

A7b13

Fmaj7

3

2 3 5 6

22

2

5

F7b13

3

7

17

5

A

6

3

Am7

7

6

7

6

5

7

5

2 3 5 3 2

D7

Gm7

5 3 2

5 3 2

3 4

C7

3

2 3 2

5

4 5

Fmaj7

3

2 5

3

10 12

10

Bars 24–26 The pickup notes on beat four in each measure create counterpoint to the melodic phrases on beats one through three in bars 25–26. Bar 29 The note D is the 3rd of Bb7; the note Ab is the b7th. Bar 31 The solo line finishes with a quote of the standard “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” l

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Jump Head

Beginner Bass Base | By Patrick Pfeiffer

Right-Hand Rhythms

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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. After dedicating the past three columns to your fretting hand, it’s high time to concentrate on the hand that’s actually pulling the strings. This is the right hand, unless you’re playing lefty. The striking hand (as I prefer to call it) is your lean, mean time-keeping machine, in addition to being largely responsible for the tone you get from your bass. Your first order of business is to find a nice “sweet spot” for striking the strings so you’re able to produce a good, balanced tone that has the right amount of low, mid, and high frequencies — full and punchy, with

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.

Ex. 1

Ex. 2

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good definition (almost sounds like a wine review, eh?). The most common technique for striking the string is to alternate between the index and middle fingers of the striking hand, and the ideal spot to strike your strings to accomplish the perfect tone is generally between the two pickups, closer to the bridge pickup. If your bass has a single pickup, strike the strings between the pickup and the end of the neck, closer to the pickup. Try moving your hand around a bit and listen for the sound that works best for you. Once you’ve established your position, it’s time for some exercises to get a smooth flow going. Since time is of the essence (and I mean the art of keeping time), I recommend practicing these exercises with a metronome. Set the metronome to about 80 beats per minute (bpm)and match the clicks by striking the open G string, alternating between your index and middle fingers. Make sure that both striking fingers get the same volume and tone out of the string. Next, do the same on the D string, then the A string, and finally the E string (and if you have a 5- or a 6-string bass, by all means use the additional strings, as well). You don’t need to involve your fretting hand at all; just play the open strings. Once you’re comfortable matching the rhythm of the click, double your strikes, still alternating between your index and middle fingers. Play two evenly timed notes for each click: one of the notes on the click, the oth-


Beginner Bass Base

Ex. 3

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Beginner Bass Base

er exactly halfway between the clicks. Keep the volume of the notes even. Do this on all your strings. Finally, play four evenly timed notes for each click of the metronome — the first note on the click, and the other three before the next click sounds. Again, practice this on each of your strings. If the click represents a quarter-note, which is most often the case, then you’re playing quarter-notes when you’re playing one note per click, eighth-notes when playing two per click (twice as fast as the quarter-notes), and 16th-notes when playing four notes (twice as fast as the eighth-notes). Take a look at Ex 1 for a visual. If you want to hear these rhythms in bass parts, listen to the intro and pre-chorus of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” for quarter-notes, U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” for eighth-notes, and Vulfpeck’s “Dean Town” for 16th-notes. Once you have the individual rhythms solidly under your fingers, it’s time to take this exercise to another level. Bassists commonly play a combination of quarter-, eighth-, and 16th-notes in any one song, so you need to be able to seamlessly maneuver among them. You can prepare yourself for this by practicing alternating rhythms as you’re playing. Don’t hesitate as you move

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from one rhythm to the next. Turn on the metronome and start playing quarter-notes. Then, without stopping, play eighth-notes. After a while, switch to 16thnotes, still without stopping. When you’re ready (still without stopping), work your way back to eighth-notes and eventually to quarter-notes. This exercise helps you keep track of all your rhythmic subdivisions while exercising your striking hand. Example 2 spells it out for you in notation form. Alternate your sequence between quarter-, eighth-, and 16th-notes to break things up and keep it interesting. You never know when you need to go from a quarter-note rhythm directly to a 16th-note rhythm or vice versa. Example 3 shows you some common sequences to work with. If you don’t have your bass handy and you still want to exercise your rhythmic subdivisions, there’s a way to do it using your feet, hands, and voice. Tap your feet in a quarter-note rhythm (you can also go for a slow walk), then clap your hands against your thigh in an eighth-note rhythm (twice as fast as your feet), and finally say “da” in a 16thnote rhythm (twice as fast as your hands and four times as fast as your feet). Pretty soon, your rhythmic feel will be as solid as a drummer’s. l


The Inquirer | By Jonathan Herrera

All You Need Is Likes

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ocial media is a contemptible scourge on society — a for-profit cancer feeding off our collective narcissism and thirst for public approval, eviscerating privacy and delegitimizing truth itself as it metastasizes through the lifeblood of public discourse. It’s also entertaining, informative, and my go-to source for basketball highlights and cool videos about space. As with all endeavors great and small, the bass enjoys its own vibrant social media ecosystem, and while my age and personal proclivities seem to get in the way of my being a notable participant in it, I’m also no dilletante. I lurk, I scroll, I see what you kids are up to! And while there are many bass-related social media phenomena that inspire and amaze me (I’m looking at you, Adam Neely), there’s also a lot that confuses, discourages, and otherwise negatively activates me. As social media become a ubiquitous feature of modern life, I’ve noticed that many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues have decided to reconsider their relationship to social media. Some have quit it outright; others limit their use to just one social network; some schedule a limited period of time each day or week. I’m in the midst of my own simmering sense that something in my use needs to change, but I’m not sure what. Social media has a lot of costs, but to me, th e biggest is that it’s superfood for an inferiority complex. Humans are social creatures, and playing music is a social exercise — otherwise we’d all be satisfied ’shedding alone at home for our whole lives. Social media toys with our native compulsion to analyze our place in the social order. Each of us active in a music scene knows well the nagging pull of insecurity, the ongoing quest to ensure we

rank highly in the hierarchy of esteem among our fellow musicians. Rather than deny this inexorable truth, we hopefully learn to leverage it as a motivational tool. Healthy competition, even when it’s private and informal, is one of many ways to push through challenges and stay focused. Social media can hijack this instinct, though, overwhelming the balance we strike between productive insecurity and crippling self-doubt. I’m not the first to say this, obviously, but it bears repeating: for most people, social media is a personal highlight reel. We all know those people that tediously overshare their life’s every detail, but most of us spend our social capital carefully, publicly revealing what we consider our best stuff. In this way, social media is an illusion. But it’s an illusion with real impact. As much as we know that it’s not a full picture, we can’t help but sometimes look at the exploits of our musical associates with envy and pique. This distorted picture of the musical landscape can corrupt our self-image, and the attendant discouragement, resentment, and depression has impactful consequences on our musical lives. While social media can be corrosive, it’s also obviously a transformational tool for self-promotion, education, and community building. It’s for these reasons that I think many musicians feel obligated to be involved in it somehow, despite its many costs. How, then, can we capitalize on its profound power while blocking its darker implications? I’m trying to figure that out, but I need help (as I’m sure we all do). Email me at jon.herrera @gmail.com with your thoughts on how to make social media a healthy and productive part of your musical life; I’ll include some of the best ideas in an upcoming installment. 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

Will Lee & Sadowsky Guitars

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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).

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oon after Roger Sadowsky opened his New York City shop in 1979, many of the town’s top session musicians were his customers. One of them was Will Lee, who had come to New York from Miami in 1971 and quickly established a reputation as one of the best studio bass players. “I was doing general repair work: fretwork, re-truing fingerboards, cutting new nuts, shielding, electronics — that kind of stuff,” says Roger. “Will just came in the door one day.” Will is quick to praise Roger’s “uncanny ability” to understand his sometimes-vague requests for maintaining and improving his instruments. “My tech-speak is very limited,” he says, “but with Roger it doesn’t matter, because he’s got such a great way of interpreting what you say.” Roger started to build his own basses in 1982. “At that time, I couldn’t make a creative original instrument and think that any working musician could walk into a jingle session and expect the engineer to deal with it. There was pressure on me and my clients to have a bass that essentially looked like a Fender, which is why my instruments are so Fender-derivative in style.” It wasn’t long before Will adopted Roger’s J-style basses for both studio work and live performances, including his 33-year gig with the World’s Most Dangerous Band on Late Night With David Letterman (1982–1993) and its successor, the CBS Orchestra on The Late Show With David Letterman (1993– 2015). Over the years, Will played a succession of Sadowsky basses, having Roger tweak the instruments to suit his style, so it was only natural for the two of them to collaborate

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on a signature model. “I was keeping Will’s basses in good shape and constantly making things for him to try,” says Roger. “One day, he was at my shop and I said, ‘Will, when are we going to do a signature model?’ And he said, ‘Whenever you want. Let’s do it.’” Work on the Will Lee Model began right away. Will wanted a J-Bass-style neck that was slightly under spec at the nut, so instead of 1.5" it measures 1.45". His second request was for 24 frets, but Roger saw a problem: “I called to his attention that if we do 24 frets and put a bell cover over the neck pickup, which he has always used as an anchor when he plays, he would have virtually no room for popping the G string between the end of the fingerboard and the bell cover.” The compromise was a 22-fret neck, with the bell cover pushed slightly back toward the bridge rather than being centered over the pickup. Will’s third request had to do with his desired tone, especially for live gigs. “Over the years, he had always said, consistently, ‘I’m looking for more punch,’” says Roger. Will explains that he wanted more midrange, “because I was coming to Roger and saying, ‘I’m pounding this instrument. Is there a way I don’t have to pound it anymore?’” Roger’s standard active circuit, installed in his basses and also available as an outboard preamp, has only bass boost (centered at 40Hz) and treble boost (centered at 4kHz). “We experimented with a half-dozen prototype op-amp circuits that had a mid control, but Will kept saying they didn’t sound right,” says Roger. “So I came to the conclusion that we had to retain my circuit for the treble and bass and add a


Partners

CO N N E C T CHECK IT OUT CHECK IT OUT

Visit Roger Sadowsky and Will Lee’s websites. CHECK IT OUT

Order American Basses online.

SANDRINE LEE

Roger Sadowsky (left) with Will Lee and his signature model in 2009.

supplemental mid booster.” Further experimentation led to the conclusion that what Will needed to get his desired punch was a mid-boost circuit centered at 500Hz with wide bandwidth. Roger then tweaked that further, to make it more versatile, to allow 500-narrow/500wide or 800-narrow/800 wide. “Will didn’t want an extra knob,” says Roger, “so I designed the circuit with a mini-toggle switch to kick it in, and two trim pots on the back plate. One is for the amount of mid boost, which we set at maximum for maximum effect — but if you’re kicking in 13dB of mid boost, the bass gets louder, so we have a second trim pot to attenuate the overall output when the mid is engaged.” Once that circuit was completed, they had the “secret recipe” for Will’s signature model. The bass has a chambered body, for lighter weight and more resonant sound, and Roger offers a number of different wood combinations. For Will, he has built basses using both alder bodies with rosewood

fingerboards and ash bodies with maple fingerboards. A Hipshot Xtender is standard, and there are several pickup options, including single-coil or humcanceling J-style and Sadowsky soapbars. The Will Lee Model is also available as a 5-string that follows the same basic design parameters. All of the basses are built in Sadowsky’s Long Island City shop, except the Metro Line version, which is made in Japan by Roger’s protégé, Yoshi Kikuchi, and priced lower. “I’ve been working with Will for almost 20 years,” says Roger. “He knows that no other company could take care of him at the level that we do, or be able to communicate with him as I can. I have a level of understanding with him that nobody else could accomplish. He appreciates that relationship, and so do I.” Will affirms their strong connection: “I consider him the bass whisperer. Roger’s real talent, besides knowing how to build great instruments, is that he can take what a bass player is feeling and empathize in a way that goes beyond what you can describe.” 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: jim@ bassmagazine. com.

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Profile for Bass Magazine

Bass Magazine – Issue 4