Interview with Bassist Anthony Jackson by Editor Jake Kot –
Innovator: one who renews; to introduce new methods; changes a way of doing things. Anthony Jackson most certainly personifies the characteristics of this title. After a long (and thoroughly enjoyed) interview with him, I’d like to go beyond the well publicized innovations he’s known for (the picked and flanged bass line on For the Love of Money by the O’Jays decades ago… the early development of the 6 string contrabass) and show how in my opinion he merges the act of innovation with individualism, and how this merging encapsulates this particular artist’s vision.
Being an academician at heart, every aspect of his artistic makeup is researched, from the integrity of a harmonic approach to the inner workings of his gear. When I questioned him about the business approach he would consider after completing the CD, he quickly replied that he wasn’t interested in that at all… his only concern was what was “on it”, not to mention that he waited decades before releasing a solo CD out of a strong need to make sure it was “done right”. Another interesting and related example of this man’s commitment was his willingness to lose a tremendous amount of session work in the seventies staying true to his vision of himself and his personal statement on his instrument, rather than employing the slap techniques of the time he was asked to perform.
When you couple that kind of commitment to his “follow your heart” mantra that he upholds and employs, it is easy to understand the direction, or should I say path that he has chosen to follow as an artist, and the impact that choice has created within the industry, as well as the overwhelming respect he’s earned that is so evident from his colleagues giving credence to his musical and personal choices.
Where does this thin line between innovation and individualism fall? I believe it falls squarely upon this particular human being.
Jake: I’d like to start off talking about your upcoming release “Interspirits”, which I believe is your first solo project under your own name. What was the motivation behind your decision to release your first solo CD?
Anthony: I had heard what Yiorgos (Fakanas) was doing. He is in my opinion a genuine composer/performer as opposed to a bass player who writes music. I see him as a seriously gifted composer, not just a songwriter. There is a qualitative difference between the two. Yiorgos writes for a full orchestra as well as string quartets. And he is superbly trained to handle these things without embarrassing himself at all. After listening to what he is able to do as a composer, as well as being a first rate bass guitarist, I thought that he would have an unusual vision for me, plus he knew that if someone didn’t come along and say, I’m going to do this for you, period, I might never do it.
I had serious plans to do a record a number of times over very many years, and something always seemed to come along and push the train off the track so to speak. About six to seven years ago I had plans to do a rhythm section trio, keyboards, bass, and drums, and I had really grand plans on how I was going to use that format in a very unique and very effective way. I had kind of a model in mind, but I don’t want to try to compare it to anything else. It was ready to go. I was ready to start the project, but I couldn’t get the keyboard player I wanted. So I was in a position where I realized that no one else could do it. There was no one else who had the peculiar qualifications of keyboard ability, a really strong and individual solo voice, and the compositional integrity that I could really respect. It was literally that crucial to have three particular individuals in mind. So this idea had just been kind of drying in the sun, and I hadn’t been giving it any further thought until Yiorgos came along and said, I really want to try this, I’d like to do this with you, and I thought to myself why not… this certainly could be a good time. This is someone I truly respect, someone I really like and have a real rapport with on all levels, and I knew it could be very interesting. He’s been a fan of mine for a long time and had listened to many of my recordings. He knew who he would be writing for. So I decided to go ahead with the project… close my eyes, hold my nose and jump into the deep end of the pool, because it was beginning to look like I would never pursue this, especially after this last project that never got off the ground. I was tired of being disappointed.