Interview with Adam Nitti by Editor Jake Kot –
Adam Nitti in my opinion represents one of the unsung hero’s in the bass community. Those of us deep within the community know him well because of his unquestioned top-flight musicianship, his very positive and almost humble enthusiasm and commitment toward the growth of the musical idiom he embraces, and quite simply put, he’s a badass on his instrument.
How much of a bad-ass you say—-the kind of accomplished player that receives a very last minute call to fill in with the Dave Weckl band, and handle it—and you don’t even want to “see” that book. He’s also been featured at Victor Wooten’s bass camp, a very prestigious call that embodies the respect he has from his peers. Beyond that, he carries the torch that few hold as far as being an accomplished “composer” as well as player, which is more than evident in his newest release “Liminal” reviewed in this issue. My guess is, even though Adam’s been out there for a while, we’re going to hear a lot more from this very talented and well respected musician.
Jake: I’d like to start off with an article you wrote a while back called Birth of a Bass line, in which you talked about three key points—activity level, dynamics, and harmonic content. After listening to your new CD, it was easy for me to appreciate and understand the points you made in that article. That being said, are your bass parts up front in your mind when you’re composing a piece?
Adam; I’ve got a pretty standard answer when people ask me about the compositional process. The fact of the matter is it’s never the same. There are some pieces that I compose that evolve from a bass line. There are some pieces that completely evolve from the melody, and there are pieces that I hear complete in my head. Sometimes I’ll hear all the components together—the melody, the harmony, and the structure. It’s really interesting, as a writer I never know what’s going to come up. It’s always been subject to a spontaneous inspiration, and kind of what’s moving me at the time. Even though I’m a bass player, when I’m in a compositional setting, I won’t necessarily be thinking about the bass. Sometimes that’s actually an afterthought because I try to be careful not to let what I might do as a bass player lead me in a direction that might detract from the continuity of the composition.
Jake: One of the things that led me to that question was listening to, on this particular CD, how you employed a chord melody approach on a few of the tunes and developed that into an ensemble piece.
Adam: One thing I really wanted to make sure of with this record, and it was pretty much the same case with my last record as well, was as a writer, I tried to make an album that hits the listeners ears as more of an ensemble recording rather than something that’s just bass player led through and through. My first two records were kind of, I guess I’ll use a term I coined a while back, a “bass player business card” type of mentality that was behind those releases. In these earlier recordings it was about the bass being a little more upfront, maybe taking the melodies and having a little more of that duality role where the bass is playing the melody and the bass line, and that’s cool and fun. I do enjoy sharing compositions in that way. But starting with the Evidence record I found myself kind of going in a different direction. I really wanted to make an ensemble recording, something that wasn’t completely a feature for me as much as it was a feature for the ensemble or band that was recording the tune. You probably figured out listening to all the tracks on this new CD that there are a lot more groove-centered compositions on this release than my prior releases. I really wanted this one to come across more like a band effort, and hopefully I’ve achieved that, and I guess we’ll find out soon what people’s reactions are.
Jake: You’ve kind of led into my next question. Once again referring to your new CD, I found the compositions to be uniquely diverse in structure. I remember that you won an award a while back for being one of the most influential new fusion bassists of the nineties. After hearing your compositions, what do you think the word “fusion” might be representing here in the 21st century?
Adam: Man, that’s such a great question. When people who aren’t too familiar with my music ask me about that——I’m trying to think of a way to describe it or label it without them having any preconceived notions or judgments regarding what the music sounds like, so I’ll say it this way. I think we’ve witnessed expediential growth and change in what people might call fusion music, especially over the last seven to ten years. What I’m kind of picking up from listening is that the new fusion now more than ever is throwbacks or retro hints from what our earliest influences were. The fusion of the late eighties and early nineties may have been something more characteristic of a particular type of synthesizer sound, or particular types of bass tones, or recording methods for drums—I guess I’ll say tonal soundscapes or categories you could kind of assume you would hear from your favorite artists or influential players of that time. Now I think the game has changed because when you listen to the new players that are coming up, what’s happening in the compositions for me is that I hear a much wider sonic bandwidth that has been influenced from old school funk, and old school styles and phrasing being combined with the use of the newer technologies available. I guess that would be my long-winded explanation. My short answer on what is the new fusion is that it incorporates the new, but within that it also seems to borrow from the old even more. That’s what’s hitting my ears, and other people’s perceptions may be different.