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Keep an Eye on Bassist Cheikh Ndoye

Watch out for this young bassist. He’s just breaking onto the scene with his first solo CD featuring such luminaries as Russell Ferrante and Eric Marienthall, and fitting in like a glove with these jazz icons. Known as a “Richard Bona protégé”, (quite a statement to uphold) he shows on this first effort to have tremendous potential in quite a few directions. Being an accomplished composer as well as a player, he represents yet another generation of young lions to be reckoned with. With a surprisingly defined maturity to his playing, coupled with his great sense of melody, Cheikh will become a familiar voice on the scene sooner than later.

Jake: I understand that you’re originally from Senegal, West Africa. How long have you been here in the states?

Cheikh: I’ve been here for almost ten years now.

Jake: Did you have any formal training in Senegal, or were most of your studies conducted here in the states?

Cheikh: When I was in Senegal, which actually is the home for quite a few musicians, I mostly played by ear, which the majority of players do there. There was a conservatory, but very few players actually attended. So most everything we learned there was by ear along with using CD’s and DVD’s. Basically, I was self-taught. Once I moved here, I enrolled in school to work on my reading, and studied composition as well.

Jake: I’ve heard the term ‘Richard Bona protégé’ come up, which is quite a positive statement about you. Has Richard been one of your main influences?

Cheikh: Richard is a friend of mine. He’s a tremendous player that I have great respect for. Four or five years ago I gave him some tracks that I had been working on. He listened to my work and told me immediately that I should start putting together an album of my own. He was definitely a catalyst for me as far as pursuing the beginnings of a solo career and a solo CD.

Jake: I know you are just finishing up your debut CD that will be coming out in 2008 with some very special players on board. Tell me about this recording.

Cheikh: The recording began with a good friend of mine Kevin Peter Jones, who brought me into his management company as well. We met, started talking about music, and I ended up bringing him on my project for two or three tunes. He’s a great drummer. After he spent some time recording with me, he offered to produce the CD for me, and I accepted his offer. At that point, he decided to bring in Russell Ferrante and Eric Marienthal for the remaining tracks, as well as Mike Miller on guitar. I was thrilled to have these players come onboard.

Jake: Tell me what it’s been like for you working with such stellar players as Russell, Eric, and Mike.

Cheikh: I had listened and watched all these players at a younger age. Sitting in the studio and recording with them was a dream realized. I was moved by what great people they are. They didn’t make me feel like I was out of place. Amazingly enough, all very humble people, and the playing itself with them was nothing less than incredible. There are only a couple of cover tunes on the CD, so it was a great experience having these players work on my original compositions. Before we recorded, I gave them a demo of the tunes, and they enjoyed the writing, which of course made me feel quite honored.

Jake: Having such a prolific writer as Russell compliment your material is quite a statement. How did you feel being the “leader” with such great musicians involved?

Cheikh: It was a bit intimidating. When we got to the studio, they kind of put me in the middle, and they looked to me for direction on the session. Being the, once again, humble people that they are, they put me at ease as far as running the session. I became comfortable conducting the tunes. It was great to get their feedback, as this CD is not really a “bass” bass album if you get what I mean. I was much more concerned about focusing on the tunes rather than myself. There are vocals, and quite a few instruments were used beyond the quartet as well. My main focus was bringing that all together and creating beautiful melodies around it.

Jake: What are your plans after the release of your new CD?

Cheikh: I’m looking forward to doing a lot of playing. I’ll be putting together a lot of clinics, which I’ll do with Kevin Jones. We’re also going to organize some touring as well. I believe we’ll actually have some gigs using Russell, Eric, and Mike, which I’m definitely looking forward to. It also looks like a DVD might be in the works in 2008 after we’ve done some touring. I’m very grateful that all this has happened for me.

Jake: All the best to you my man.

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Photo: CC Givens

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