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Conversation With Lincoln Goines


Conversation With Lincoln Goines


Rarely, if ever, do I open with someone’s discography, but in this case I think it will send a clear message as far as Lincoln’s talents are concerned. His list includes Sonny Rollins, Gato Barbieri, Dave Grusin, Paquito D’Rivera, Michel Camilo, Eliane Elias, Micheal Breaker, Bob Mintzer, Dave Samuels, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, John Scofield, Rick Braun, Vince Mendoza, and Special EFX. Amazingly enough, this is only a small part of his discography. The skills that keep someone this in demand are many, artistic to political, and Lincoln obviously has developed “all” of these skills to a very high level, and this is most certainly a rare breed as players go. To grace this many CDs and tour with so many stellar artists speaks well to how much respect is derived by his presence, and bottom line, how in command he is of his instrument. Leaping genres with this kind of authority is a talent within itself, and the success he has had certainly acknowledges his obvious commitment to artistic integrity. Those looking for longevity in this business should probably try to grab a few lessons with this particular artist, and be ready to take some notes.

Jake: Your discography is pretty amazing.  Looking at the array of artists you’ve worked with absolutely bears the question what do you feel are your personal strength as a player that puts you on the list for so many of these great artists?

Lincoln: More than anything else it’s the ability to listen and adjust, and be able to fit into any situation, and also provide a voice. A lot of times people are looking for somebody who is adept and can provide that voice somehow, whether it’s a solo contribution or coming up with parts, whatever. It’s also a sound thing.  I worked on getting my sound to where I liked it, and hopefully everybody else likes it, and maybe that’s what some people look for, at least I hope it is. Other than that, it’s just another old goat with a bass, you know. I’ve been around along time, and it’s good to know that artists still know I’m here. People remember who you are, and what you’ve done, and then one thing leads to another. And then a lot of it is just… I don’t want to say luck, but just being available, and sticking with it.

Jake: In my interview with Christian McBride, he mentioned that handling the politics of a situation sometimes is just as important, if not more important than your musicianship.

Lincoln: I agree with that. I’m not very good at politicizing, and I’m not much of a schmoozer, but you have to be a little bit socially adept and know when to get out of the way of people’s egos, especially the people who are writing the checks. One other thing that I do want to say is that I’ve always tried to more or less never be satisfied with what I am, in terms of being a musician. I’m always trying to improve on something… my personal sound, or some aspect of music that I don’t know. I’m always trying to push myself. If you stop growing as a player, it can definitely affect your career. That’s not actually my motivation, but it is a result of me wanting to push myself, even if it’s just a little bit, and never really be satisfied and rest on my laurels. I may be a little bit older, but the bottom line is I’m just another cat looking for a gig.

Jake: Kind of related to my last question, with your extensive experience in dealing with the recording industry, what, for lack of a better phrase, words of wisdom might you have for up and coming players as far as gaining some exposure in the industry at this point in time?

Lincoln: That’s a very good question. Again, I can only speak from personal experience; I think it’s good to be in the big centers for music, New York and L.A., unless you know people. I also found that once you know one person you basically end up knowing a lot of people, and if you do well, then things start to happen. Regardless of all the technology that’s out there, word of mouth is still a big part of the game. If you do a good job, it gets out there many times to people who are in the position of hiring, and that’s the way it works… word of mouth, just like it did in the Stone Age.

Jake: This is a very repetitive inquiry for me with all the artists I interview, as I think it’s something of an enigma as far as survival goes.

Lincoln: I’m sure you get all kind of different answers from different people. I don’t consider myself to be a very good businessman, but I do know that when I show up, I show up as prepared as I possibly can be, and I pay attention, and simply just listen. By listening, I mean a lot of different things. I listen and think, what am I going to do here, how am I going to make this work, and be strong, and provide a voice like I said before. You know, I think people want to hear a voice. It doesn’t have to be something stellar like a Jaco voice, but something to that effect. I could start quoting people that have a voice, and maybe it’s subtle, and sometimes not so subtle like Nathan East or Anthony Jackson… I can tell when it’s them playing, even if it’s in the background, or it’s been compressed to death. I can still tell it’s them just by the way they’re placing the notes.

Jake: Speaking of your “voice”, always a tricky word, is this something you feel you’ve actually spent time thinking about and developing?

Lincoln: I think that’s something that just happens by itself after a while. You work on getting a sound, and a consistency with your hands on the point of contact to the bass, as well as getting an instrument that you like. These factors all add up to be part of your voice, and then you just go in and do what you do. I don’t think about things like, OK, I’m going to make this statement here. I believe that preparation, that mindset is already established before you go in and do it, much more than when you are actually there. Sometimes you get to the point where the more you think, the more complicated things become, kind of like martial arts I guess.

Jake: I’ve found that you’re on staff with four or five different music institutions. Teaching is obviously part of your makeup. With the industry and the scene going through as many changes as it has, and I’m sure you know what I mean, with that in mind do you find that your approach as an instructor has gone through some changes as well?

Lincoln: First of all, I think that teaching is definitely a part of being a musician, especially a musician who’s been around long enough to know some things and pass some information along, and hopefully most of it is valid information. I don’t put it on a level below doing gigs per se, I think it’s important, and it sure fills in the holes when not much is going on.

Jake: I just read that your book Funkifying the Clave has sold around 40,000 copies. As versed as you are in Latin and Cuban grooves, do you find that you incorporate some of those elements within other genres on occasion?

Lincoln: Absolutely… all the time. One thing I always tell my students, especially the students that are interested in studying the Afro Cuban music, even if you don’t have an application for it, or you don’t have a drummer who knows the language as well, it will make your time stronger, and you can put things in and syncopate things. It’s all interrelated. Even if you’re doing something like a funk sixteenth note thing, you can still use some of those other applications. The Afro Cuban thing is the three over four feel. It’s like another type of swing that’s kind of in between a rolling sort of shuffle thing and a straight eighth note thing. You can kind of put a lean on a groove. I found a lot of times in my experience that the bass player is kind of the baby sitter with the time when things are pulling away, or dragging. With my knowledge of Afro Cuban music I’ve found I can help that situation sometimes by shortening things up a bit in my playing, the length of notes, when you change where you can put the beat. You can help slow things down, or move things along. That’s one way of looking at what Afro Cuban grooves can do for you, but you also have to use your personal taste. Sometimes I’ll try things and they sound like shit… it doesn’t always work. But a lot of times it does.

Jake: Again, kind of a related to my last question, it seems like we are seeing more of a cross over of styles on a lot of the CDs of late. As busy as you are with recording projects, do you see this trend happening with the artists you’ve worked with, and what are your thoughts on covering multiple genres on one CD?

Lincoln: I think that is happening more these days. An example would be… I just did Carly Simon’s new record, and on this recording she wanted some of the things to have a Brazilian flavor to them, which was probably one of the reasons I got hired to do the gig. So she wanted me to play these Brazilian style sorts of things, and I played in that style, but it turned out to be a little bit too ethnic for her. She kind of wanted a more or less a rock-Brazilian type of feel, so I pulled back just a little bit and created this sort of fusion thing on the spot, and it was very interesting. She’s a fantastic musician and certainly knows what she wants…she knows how to write a hit. So I had to come up with this sort of in between feel, which is a bit of an example of what you were talking about. This kind of goes back to my teaching thing. Some of my students come in, and their younger players, and they want to learn things that I have to acquaint myself with. With one of my students I’m going over a couple of compositions by Avashi Cohen, and it’s very intricate stuff, lots of time changes, etc, and it’s definitely cross-genre. There are Afro Cuban inflections as well as classical inflections involved within a single composition. So I think it’s important that you keep your mind and your spirit open to all types of music, and try to absorb as much of it as you can. I find I have to use things that I’d never thought I’d use again. When I first started playing I was working with a bow, and then I find myself in situations where I actually had to use those techniques again, and do them proficiently. I was really glad that I had a starting point to come back to.

Jake: I know over the years you spend some time working with Michael Breaker, who will be deeply missed by all within the jazz community. What in your opinion was different, or should I say unique about working with a master like Michael?

Lincoln: I’ve done a lot of sessions with Michael in the past. I worked with him and his brother in the studio and also with the Bob Mintzer big band. It was always interesting hearing his sound as opposed to all the other horn players. They would always gravitate towards him and ask him what are you doing, or what type of reed are you using… he was the cat.

Players were consistently asking him questions on every aspect of his playing. He’s a very good example of something I was talking about before. He had a very strong voice but was also willing to take directions whenever asked. I’d be in the studio with him and watch someone tried to give him an image and he just go, OK, and think about it for a few seconds, and always manage to come up with something brilliant within one or two takes. He was also a very easygoing cat; he didn’t have much of an edge to him at all… very confident in a quiet sort of way.

Jake: Correct if I’m wrong, but you haven’t done a project under your own name. Any possibilities of a solo CD coming up in the near future?

Lincoln: There are a couple of things that I’m working on right now and trying to get off the ground. One is a guitar trio and the other is a piano trio called Le Baby Macho with Lionel Cordew and Klaus Muller. We play at a club in Brooklyn where I have a regular Tuesday night, and we’re all doing a lot of writing for this project. The other trio is with a guitar player named Amit Chatterjee who lives in Europe. He used to play with Zawinal. We’re also doing a lot of writing for that trio as well. This would definitely be a cross-genre type of thing—not fusion, not rock, not raga, but pulling from those idioms. I’m hoping something’s going to happen with both these projects, and I personally enjoy getting to write and collaborate with these players.

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