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SA With Martin Simpson: An Interview with Professor Marc Duby

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Hi everyone, I’m Martin. Jake, kindly invited me to join the staff here at BMM and have my own column, What I’ll be doing, is interviewing South Africa’s low end fraternity so that, you, the reader, will become aware of some of the incredible talent that resides down here at the tip of the World’s Dark Continent. I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy this section of the magazine and invite your feedback. O.K. That’s enough from me – let’s get started with my first interview.

An Interview with Professor Marc Duby

After being invited by Jake, to join the staff of this wonderful magazine, I sent out mails to five of the top bassists in South Africa, including Marc, the absolutely awesome, Denis Lallouette and ‘Not of this Planet’ Maestro, Carlo Mombelli and spoke to each about the possibility of an interview. All five responded extremely positively and so I prepared question sheets for each individual. Marc was the ‘First Home’ with his answers and it’s really ironic as Marc has taught some of South Africa’s best bassists, including Ex Johnny Clegg bassist, Concord Nkabinde and Sibusiso Masondo, who’ll both be featured in the coming issues. Marc has been teaching at TUT for many years but was given an opportunity to move down south to Rhodes University recently. This is what the good Professor told me in October 2008. [MS] How long have you been playing Marc? [Marc] I started playing professionally at age 16 in Cape Town, with the likes of Morris Goldberg, David Bravo, Nol Klinkhamer, Feedback, and others. So that makes it 36 years or so…embarrassingly long, really (laughter)

[MS] You played guitar before you played bass. Was there anything you tried your hand at before the guitar? [Marc] I had piano lessons at school, and despite my high degree of ineptitude at it, have found my early training really useful for composing (working out voicings, and so on). [MS] What other instruments do you play? [Marc] Synthesizers…shock horror, don’t tell any of my colleagues…(more laughter) [MS] Do you come from a musical family? [Marc] Yes. My dad played the violin, and my mum, the piano. My sister is a former musicologist, who taught me Harmony and Counterpoint at UCT many years ago. [MS] Did they play professionally? [Marc] Apparently only my father, who played in Europe with some orchestras before coming to SA. He had stopped playing by the time I was born, but had a deep love of music. My mother was a very good sight-reader and, when I was a student at UCT, played some quite complex Erik Satie from the book to my great astonishment. [MS] How did you arrive at the Bass? [Marc] Well, after the piano lessons I took up guitar, and played a couple of gigs in Cape Town as a youngster. I’d always loved the bass though and when I realized how many better guitarists there were out there it was not such a difficult decision to play bass.

[MS] Who are the musicians that have influenced your career? [Marc] This could take a while, since it’s a long list, but to spare you and the readers…

As a bass-player: Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, Paul McCartney, Eberhard Weber, Jaco, Dave Holland, Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden

As a composer: Carla Bley, Robert Wyatt, Django Bates, Enrico Rava, Frank Zappa, Steve Lacy, Eberhard again, Coltrane, the Western art greats from Bach to Mozart to Varèse and Steve Reich, and so on

As you see, there are many influences—I’m not sure to what extent they are direct, in the ultimate sense of my trying to sound like myself as a musician and composer, which, if it doesn’t sound too grandiose, is one of my missions in life. I think where they may be well be influential is in pointing out different ways of hearing music, and I’ve found as I get older, I like to leave things out more and more. Eventually perhaps I’ll play one note a month, if I get that lucky…but seriously, space is the place, as Sun Ra said.

My interests as a composer are a weird mixture of quite thoroughly composed music, where there is little departure from the chart, to very open pieces, which may incorporate other sonic elements like sound effects or electronics or improvisation. My PhD was about Walter Thompson’s Soundpainting language for live composition, where you work with an ensemble and create gestures, which steer the music in various directions. [MS] What instruments have you owned over the years? [Marc] I started with an el cheapo no name bass, which I sanded down. And then a Fender Jazz, a short scale Gibson bass, a Fender Precision, a Hayman fretless, a Maton fretless, and various 5-strings. And Art Kelly (a dear departed friend) basically gave me an old Kay upright (called Stella) in the 1990s as a swap for a German bass, which was way too big for me (and my car) at the time. I gave up sanding instruments down quite some time ago. [MS] What are you playing currently? [Marc] I have an old Ibanez fretless, a Peavey 6 string, and Stella. I play guitar at home, and also use s***th***zers occasionally. [MS] Are you an endorser of these products? [Marc] They’ve never asked me …(laughter) [MS] You recently left Pretoria to take up a position in Grahamstown. What challenges are you facing there? [Marc] It’s a well established music department in the Western art sphere, so I suppose the challenges are to develop the jazz studies, music education, ethnomusicology, and technology elements of the programme so as to contribute to the musical life of the region. I am also quite involved in examining various elements of jazz curricula, which sounds a bit dry, but I’m really interested in how to improve people’s understanding of improvising, one of the keys to the jazz art. [MS] What projects have you been involved in over the last five years or so? [Marc] I spent quite a lot of time writing my PhD, which took me away from the profession for a while. I ran the Standard Bank Youth Band in 2001, which was a tremendous experience. In 2004 I worked with François Jeanneau and Walter Thompson in Paris, doing Soundpainting, which is a very interesting concept for improvising without charts.

I did some playing and arranging on Lydia vom Hagen’s album, “Red.” We’re married, as are quite a few bass players and singers whom I’ve heard of.

Thanks to Alan Webster, the organizer of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing international players over the years, such as Karlheinz Miklin, Gary Wittner, Carl Allen, Mike del Ferro, and Dave O’Higgins, to name a few. Quite recently Sanjoy Bandophadyaye (a great sitarist) and I worked on some Indian classical improvising at the university, and I composed some music for First Physical Theatre Co, in Grahamstown for this year’s festival. [MS] Are there any cd’s currently available in the cd stores that you’ve played on? [Marc] I’m not sure, since it’s a fair list. Lydia’s album “Red” should be available, and some tracks I did with Greg Georgiades and Ashish Joshi’s group. There are no solo albums yet, but I’m working on some ideas for the future. [MS] What are your goals – long term and short term? [Marc] My long-term goals are to continue teaching, which I really love, and writing for the various ensembles I work with. We have a small group in Grahamstown, which is a great vehicle for arranging and composing. I think writing for big band is really interesting, and I’m learning the craft, a pretty complex one. The aim is somehow to make a big band in the region that plays SA music in the SA context, one that incorporates some free playing maybe as well; something like what Chris McGregor was doing. I really love his writing and the crazy electric energy of that group, with so many great SA musicians featured like Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Feza, and Chris himself of course.

In the immediate future, I’m lucky to have some time to compose and work with some really good musicians down here. I have a big concert planned for next year, a retrospective kind of thing that Rhodes is hosting, and we have some really interesting visitors planned to start some international projects. [MS] What advice would you give to a youngster starting out on a music career? [Marc] I believe that it takes self-belief, and a certain amount of courage and discipline, to persist in music. It’s a hugely rewarding career choice and nowadays there are many opportunities in the studio, the production side, not to mention performing. Steve Lacy speaks of “appetite,” and I think he means curiosity about the field and what other people are exploring. Curiosity keeps your mind open, which is good for us all, I believe.

It helps if you have certain skills to begin with, and then it’s up to you to respect and develop them. If you know how to ask questions and develop that sense of curiosity about music, you may have the opportunity to build really worthwhile relationships with other musicians as equals or mentors or whatever.

A cheerful demeanour and a clear head may be beneficial in the long run as well. It’s really about being committed to something far greater than oneself, something hugely interesting, in an area where the fewer times your ego comes to the party, so to speak, the more you may be free to create opportunities to affect people positively. It seems to me that not taking oneself too seriously is healthy. A bit of good luck doesn’t hurt either.

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book

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Interview With Bassist Travis Book

Interview With Bassist Travis Book…

Bluegrass music has had a very solid following over many years and I am always happy to hear from one of the pioneers in that genre.

Travis Book plays bass for the Grammy award-winning band “The Infamous Stringdusters” and has recently released his first solo album “Love and Other Strange Emotions”. As if he wasn’t busy enough, Travis also hosts a podcast, Plays a Jerry Garcia music show with Guitarist Andy Falco, and is constantly gigging locally in his neck of the woods.

Photo, Seyl Park

Visit Online:

www.thetravisbook.com
www.thestringdusters.com
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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Bass Videos

Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner

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Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner

Malcolm-Jamal Warner…

I am pretty sure that everyone is aware of Malcom-Jamal Warner’s work as an actor. What may be less known is his work as a director, poet, musician, and most importantly for us, a bass player. With four albums of his own, Grammy nominations and wins, as well as a sizable amount of ongoing live gigs, Malcolm is dedicating a serious amount of his attention to his music.

Join me as we hear about Malcom’s musical journey, projects, his gear choices, and plans for the future.

Here is Malcom-Jamal Warner!

Photos: Dwain Govan @dwain_go / Conrad Montgomery Mckethan @eyeconimages

Visit Online:

malcolmjamalwarner.com
IG @malcolmjamalwar
Twitter @malcolmjamalwar 
Facebook: Malcolm-Jamal Warner

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Bass Videos

Interview With The Labex Funk Project

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Interview With The Labex Funk Project

Interview With The Labex Funk Project…

Time really flies when you are having fun! Just over a decade ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michel “Labex” Labaki for our July 2013 cover.

At that time, much of our conversation concerned his personal approach to bass playing and his techniques. Fast forward to now and I am pleased to discover Michel’s new endeavor, the Labex Funk Project.

Join me as we meet the band:
Kynion Lanier on vocals
Pablo Batista on percussion
Jake Brightman on Guitar
Daniel Gonzalez on Drums
And Michel “Labex”Labaki on bass

As a bonus, we have the band’s producer Phillippe Dib in on this video chat as well.

Here is the Labex Funk Project!

Visit online:

michellabaki.com
www.facebook.com/MichelLabexLabaki/
www.instagram.com/michellabaki
www.youtube.com/c/MichelLabaki
FB @LabexFunkProject
IG @ Labex Funk Project

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Tony Newton

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Interview With Bassist Tony Newton

Bassist Tony Newton…

I am always learning new details about Bass history when I get the opportunity to talk with seasoned players like Tony Newton. Tony, a Detroit native, came up in the golden years of Motown and laid down the low end for countless performers and studio sessions; he has performed on over 25 gold and platinum hit recordings.

As time went by, and the whole Detroit scene dwindled, Tony relocated to LA where he worked a busy schedule, even going back to school to learn about music theory and composition.

Over the years he performed on many historic hit recordings and tours with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson(music Director), the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Funk Brothers and more, as well as working with veteran rock guitarist, Gary Moore in the British group G-Force.

Presently, Tony is super busy and on the verge of releasing a movie titled “Mars Quest” among his numerous other projects.

Join me as we get to enjoy all the history and knowledge that Tony has to share along with the details about his new Signature bass from BITE Guitars named “The  Punchtown Bass”.

Here is Tony Newton…

Photos: Mary K. Brand, Mitch Snyder, Haneefa Karrim, Hans Adamsen

Visit Online:

tonynewtonmusic.com/
FB @ TonyNewtonMusic Artist
YTB @ antoniotonynewtonmusic

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