Interview by Staff Writer Rick Suchow –
Cover Image by Davide Susa –
With even the most cursory glance at the long list of major jazz artists who have sought out his enormous bass talent, one thing is immediately clear: Eddie Gomez has blazed his own trail. Name after iconic jazz name such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner and Gerry Mulligan fill his discography and concert history that now stretches back over four decades. Blessed with an uncanny ability to find the right note, the right phrase, to instantly absorb the sound of each instrument that surrounds him and react with the perfect piece of the puzzle, hearing Eddie perform is an experience to behold. Through it all, his unmistakable tone and technique allow him to put his own personal stamp on all that emanates from his upright, whether in the role of supporting player or soloist. In short, Eddie Gomez is our modern master of bass.
Not that his low-end journey has been limited to the world of jazz, as his body of work readily reveals. Pop, R&B, Classical and Latin artists alike have all utilized Eddie’s distinctive dexterity in the studio and on stage. And yet when all is said and done, Gomez may perhaps be most remembered for the eleven years he spent with the legendary Bill Evans. Widely regarded as one of the most important jazz pianists of the 20th century, Evans made major contributions to recordings by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and others before breaking out with his own trio in 1959, a group that included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. When LaFaro, a revolutionary talent in his own right, died suddenly in a tragic car crash in 1961 at the tender age of 25, Evans suddenly found himself without the telepathic piano-bass connection the two had. He would hire various bassists over the next few years, but it wasn’t until Eddie Gomez joined him in 1966 that Bill was able to recapture that same level of interplay that made the Bill Evans Trio so unique. And although Gomez is the first to admit that it took him a while to settle in and feel comfortable with the trio, it’s apparent that Bill Evans immediately found his man in Eddie, and the two would be kindred bandmates for more than a decade.
In the 30 years since leaving the Evans fold Eddie’s career has never slowed, and he’s added a bevy of innovative and well received recordings to his discography, both as sideman and solo artist. Continually challenging himself with disparate and wide ranging live performance situations, he remains to this day an in-demand bassist of the highest caliber. Now at age 65, Eddie’s bustling schedule reads like the itinerary of a musician half his age, and he retains a fresh, youthful, energetic approach to the many projects he immerses himself in and a wide-eyed optimism about the musical possibilities that have yet to unfold. And make no mistake, the man is still bringing his A-game; just last year he was awarded with a Latin Grammy for best instrumental album for his Duets collaboration with Carlos Franzetti.
His musical endeavors are not limited to recording and performance either. Gomez not only enjoys success as a composer, writing for his own groups as well as various film and television projects, but he also finds himself in the prestigious position of Artistic Director of The Conservatory of Music Of Puerto Rico, where he has been professor and artist-in-residence since 2005. In fact, the PR Conservatory is merely the latest in a long string of educational positions that Eddie has held, which also includes Associate Professor of jazz double bass at Oberlin Conservatory, and artist-in-residence jobs at Stamford, North Texas State, and Georgia State Universities.
Our interview took place in April of this year, just days after Eddie returned from a week-long tour of Japan with drummer Steve Gadd. He was also just days away from preparing for a two week stint at New York’s famed Blue Note jazz club with pianist Chick Corea and drummer Paul Motian, a special event to be billed as “Further Explorations of Bill Evans”. Chick’s concept for the trio was to introduce some lesser known Evans compositions as well as a few of his own originals, all in the spirit of remembering and honoring the great Evans. Although this highly anticipated event was to be filmed and recorded for a future DVD and CD release, Eddie was not aware of the exact nature of the project when I mentioned it to him. It was on this topic that we began our interview.