It was 20 years ago on September 21st that Jaco passed away. Personally, with the amount of his music that is yet still being presented, as well as countless videos and DVD’s, it sure doesn’t feel that long ago to me. For the record, I got to meet Jaco in New York at 50 Grand, Mike Sterns club, in the mid 80’s. It was obviously toward the end of his career, but he was having a good day, and after spending some time with him, I can honestly say that I found him to be quite a special human being beyond his “bass legend” status. Beyond that, his playing that evening, acknowledging that at that point in his life he was not always consistent, was nothing less than brilliant.
It would be easy for me to continue on speaking of the many accolades this man has coming, but I’m choosing not to, for its already been said with love and great respect by much greater voices in the industry than my own.
What I’d like to present to you out of respect for the man and his legacy, is a look ahead. I’ve come with a question that I’ve presented to some of our staff members (some players of great stature in their own right I’m proud to say) to ponder, and respond for all to hear.
Kind of amazing—putting the focus of the question towards looking at what we’re hearing as of late, I marvel at how easy it is to use Jaco as a serious reference point in this matter 20 years later. Damn, that’s some impact.
Also in this issue you will find a review of a recent Jaco compilation CD I would recommend taking a look at, as well as a video clips in our new column “Recommended Videos”, and I hope keeping the focus of this article to “looking ahead”, is something he’d give a thumbs up to.
What player (or players) would you recommend giving a listen to, that in the spirit of Jaco and the innovation he brought to us, is on the same path in your opinion as far as stretching the boundaries yet again of this instrument, and focusing on exploring the possibilities of its continued evolution? This is what our writers had to say…
Here are three bass players that I find quite different and innovative with a different approach of the bass guitar. Carlos Benavent from Spain, Dominique DiPiazza from France and also from France, Hadrien Feraud, a young and upcoming player.
It seems to me this is a radically different time culturally from when Jaco was coming up, so drawing parallels can be a bit problematic. What I see out there now is a rich community of bassists who are working hard to contribute to the growth and creative breadth of the instrument. It’s a big and varied list and I’m always afraid I’ll leave out too many good folks if I try to enumerate, but I’m sure you’ll find many of the names in the pages of publications like this one. I had the good fortune to get to know Jaco when he was alive and I think if he were still around, he’d feel honored to be one of the voices in that community.
David Dyson… The players that come to mind right away are Richard Bona, Gary Willis, Guellermo Vadala, & Marcus Miller. The reason I picked these cats (though there are others as well) is because though you can clearly hear Jaco’s influence, they’ve each taken the bass to another level in one way or another.
The first musician that came to mind was Victor Wooten, not for his obvious “From another world” technique, but for his spirit.
In the bass guitar history few have really taken the turn from the main road as Jaco, James Jamerson, Eddie Gomez, and Stanley Clarke have. That’s were I think Victor is still continuing that tradition of spinning your head around from his approach.
Although not a bass player I believe Gonzalo Rubacaba possesses that same spirit that Jaco has; you can hear it in his playing.
In answer to your question, I would have to say Pino Paladino!
When I think about players who are continuing the legacy of Jaco, I find I could come up with quite a few players who in their own way are contributing to the evolution of this instrument, but the players that came up for me right away, with all due respect to many others, are Alain Caron, Gary Willis and Victor Wooten.
Hopefully there is a little of Jaco in all of us, I have not met a bass player yet not effected by his legacy. There is long list of players that fall into what I consider to be the title of the “evolution” of the bass. To keep my answer somewhat short I will talk about one of my personal favorites.
The first bass player I thought of when I read the question is Michael Manring. In my opinion Michael has and is redefining the instrument as a whole and with the same artistic integrity, musicality and excitement that Jaco did. Hearing Michael and Jaco play reminds us that the ultimate goal is music. When I hear them I don’t think of bass playing I am always struck by their musicality, it just happens to be on the bass.
Unfortunately I never got to see Jaco live but I’m certain that he would invoke the same feelings I get whenever I see Michael perform. There is such a sense of adventure and excitement each and every time I see Michael play. You forget about how technical or virtuosic the actual playing is and get lost in how beautiful the music is…that’s the point right? To me this is the essence of any great musician no matter what instrument they use.
At a recent clinic I did with Michael someone asked him about Jaco. Michael was a little overwhelmed for a moment and it was obvious what an impact Jaco had made on him. It was interesting to hear that Michael actually was so enamored with Jaco that he followed him around New York and even stated that he wanted to be him. At one point Jaco conveyed to Michael that he needed his own identity as a musician (words of wisdom for us all).
This is why I picked Michael for my answer. He took from Jaco the best gifts of all, his sense of passion, integrity and exploration of music itself and because of that redefined how we have previously viewed the role of the bass and what can be done the instrument. Michael continues to amaze me and I cherish any chance I get to hear him perform.
Michael Manring: Alternate tunings & haunting melodies
Jeff Schmidt: Alternate tunings & chords, combining multiple techniques at one time
Bill Dickens: Chords & jazz melodies
Victor Wooten: Taking slapping & tapping to new unheard of levels
Michael Manring is off the charts in my opinion… the same for Gary Willis… obviously Victor Wooten…
Adam Nitti… Dominique DiPiazza – Probably the most melodic player of our time. Incredible blend of chops and harmonic sensitivity.
MAN!!!! What a tough question. A great one, though!
I would have to suggest a few different people to encapsulate a few of the different things that made Jaco so important.
Pure musicality and soul in his playing – Otiel Burbridge and Rich Brown are two of the most soulful bass players and melodic soloists I’ve heard in sometime. I just can’t get enough of these guys. You always feel like your listening to MUSIC when they play. Not chops or licks.
Technical proficiency – Hadrien Feroud or Dominic DiPiazza (as well as Richard Bona) have all definitely taken the instrument to new heights in regards to technical facility. These guys are on another plane.
New directions in approach – Victor Wooten. Nuff said. He has taken bass to new levels for a whole new generation of people who had no idea you could do that with a bass!
And I think that THAT is why Jaco was so important. He was the guy who brought ALL of those things together. I honestly couldn’t think of one guy who encapsulated EVERYTHING that Jaco did for the instrument in contemporary terms. There are certainly a HUGE numbers of bassists that I absolutely love and might even prefer to Jaco right now, but NONE of them would exist, as they do today, without Jaco’s presence in their development or the development of the instrument in general. Now THAT is a major impact!
Richard Bona reflects the melodic sensibilities that Jaco inflamed in us all. Jaco sang the lick in Birdland. He was beyond a bassist. He was a complete musician and I feel the same about Richard. His solo CD’s are not filled with pyro-laced feats. They reflect his gift to transpose thought into tonality. We have many Jaco clones, but so few bold painters. There’s some kid in his or her room who loves music more than fame. They are tomorrow’s inspiration. Paint with broad strokes, Stay true to your heart and never play to impress us… play for yourself. We will find you!!!