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Keep an Eye On With B.A. Johnson: Anthony Crawford

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Meet B.A. Johnson

Chops and intelligence?! HMMM… It was bound to happen. I remember teaching a particularly competitive student as a teenage bass instructor in the early 1980’s. In a desperate attempt to get this person to understand that music is not a competition, I made the unknowingly prophetic remark, “man, there is a musician who’s yet still a baby who may grow up to be a remarkably innovative bassist!” Little did I know, then…

Anthony Crawford was born in 1981 to a very musical family that includes his father (drummer) Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford and his gifted uncle (saxophonist) Hank Crawford! So, when we made friends on FaceBook I knew it was only a short matter of time before I would be allowed to introduce him to a wider audience! I love my job…

Anthony’s “Urban Jazz” features a wealth of deep grooves, 2-hand tapping, majestic soloing and melodic interplay. The compositions are (thankfully) beyond the scope of the typical “bass player makes a record no one digs”. I am convinced that much of what I am hearing from this adroit young bassist is the slightly unconventional influence of players such as Doug Wimbish, dUg Pinnick, and Mike Inez in his technical approach – instead of the typical list of players I find in a bassist’s bag. COOL! Again: thankfully. “AC” shows himself to be an instant classic, and he’s had an incredible journey since sitting-in with his dad with the Bette Midler band – at the age of 14! Here is Anthony Crawford!

BAJ: Hey man! Welcome to Bass Musician Magazine! Its good to hang for a few minutes and hear from you! Let’s start with the premise that produced “Urban Jazz”… what was the main theme you wanted to bring to your listening audience, and what was your primary goal for the disc’s release?

AC: Well the primary goal behind “Urban Jazz” is to approach a solo bass record with a pop-ish urban feel and, at the same time, bring fresh original music that everyone can enjoy. I’ve always thought that it would be cool to do a bass record but I wanted to have a different concept behind it. I hear a lot of bass records all the time… But I wanted to have a concept that would make me stand out from others bassists. Although I am a bass player, I am also a producer – as I have produced songs for rap and hip hop artists. I listen to a lot of urban stations and I always imagined what it would sound like if I could capture the urban feel of today’s music and turn that music it into a “bass album”. I also wanted to bring something unique to the listeners’ ears – while taking them on a (musical) journey. I wanted each song on my album to say something. Whether through the melody, or the way I played the solo, the vocals, and the groove… I hoped the listener would feel like I am taking them someplace they usually wouldn’t go themselves. Stanly Clarke told me to find what makes me unique, and write songs based upon that quality. So I took that idea and I came up with the “Urban Jazz” title – which is a “bass jazz album from an urban point of view”.

BAJ: Please describe your 2-hand ‘tapping’ technique and how you have developed it over the years?

AC: My 2-hand tapping technique… Hmmmm…. Well, there is a lot of Victor Wooten’s influence when it comes to my 2-hand tapping technique. I got his “A Show Of Hands” release when I was 16. When I got that album I said, “there is no way 1 person can be playing all of this!” (Laughter) So, I listened to that album and figured out what he was doing. I began applying what I thought he was doing to the bass. I sat with my CD player for 8-hours at a time figuring out how he was playing those songs the way he did. When I finally got the concept down, I took the same concept and played it my way. Then, I began learning other songs by learning the bass lines and melody at the same time.

As I started practicing that way I began to see a pattern. I realized that every time I tapped out songs… they felt like grooves! So, instead of thinking about a lot of notes, I looked at songs as 1 big groove! After that, a lot of songs started to come more easily, as far as 2-hand tapping technique is concerned.

Later on, as I got more comfortable with tapping, I started to approach tapping the way a piano player would. For example, if a pianist is soloing, they will play chords with their left hand and solo with their right hand. Sometimes they might also alter the chords with their left hand while playing the corresponding lines with their right hand to give an extra edge. I use that same concept.

BAJ: Unlike many young bassists, it seems you were listening to your dad’s music more than others bother to! Good! You site Geddy Lee and Eddie Van Halen as refreshingly unexpected influences! (Editor’s note: Geddy was my commencing influence – however I began playing in the late 1970’s!) What tunes really “hit you over the head” when you were younger?

AC: I have heavily influenced by rock musicians. Van Halen is one my favorite groups! The first album I got was “For Unlawful Carnel Knowledge”. The first song on that album, “Poundcake”, blew me away and I was hooked! Then I started to get their older recordings. Also, Geddy Lee always blows my mind when I heard him play! I love the way he writes songs. He always has his own sound, and he is very musical. BAJ, you’ve also said that you were into Geddy Lee in the 70’s! But, I didn’t get into him until “Roll The Bones” – which came out in the early 90’s. Like I did with Van Halen, I went back and got the older RUSH albums. Then I got a video that featured a lot of older RUSH videos. I used to watch that videotape, again and again, learning those songs and being amazed every time I saw Geddy! Just talking about this brings back good memories!

Another great band that was a big influence was Living Colour. The first record I got of theirs was “Time’s Up”. Every song blew me away! Then “Stain” came out…! That’s how I discovered Doug Wimbish. Doug’s style and approach opened up many doors for me! My favorite song that I still listen to from that album is “Go Away”!

BAJ: Even though you site a number of rock influences, you released a version of “Giant Steps” on “Urban Jazz”! Nicely done. That said, tell us about your approach to the tune, and what was the central theme of your brief, blazing solo?

AC: “Giant Steps” is a song I always wanted to learn how to play. I leaned the basics a while back, but I wanted to be able to solo over the changes. It is a really good exercise to be able to play though any difficult tune. So, I wanted to capture that aspect on my CD, and I wanted to surprise listeners with a version of this great tune. Even though my disc is an urban approach to jazz music, I also wanted to feature a jazz standard that every jazz musician would know and feature myself on that song.

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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Gear News

New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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Gear News

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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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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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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