You just got back from a Japanese tour with Steve Gadd. Like Chick, you and Steve go back together decades as well. How would you describe your musical relationship with Gadd?
Steve and I go back a long way, and it really kind of starts with Chick and some of those early albums we played on such as The Mad Hatter, Friends and Three Quartets. Those are all good albums that I like very much. And then Steve and I have also done a lot of things in various supporting casts. He’s played on my albums and has produced a couple of them.
What’s the musical bond you have when you’re on stage playing together?
Well I think we agree on what the purpose is. Steve really focuses on the groove, and on making something feel good, making the pulse and the rhythm sing. It’s a song, and we’re making it comfortable for each other and for whoever else is on the bandstand with us. It means being utterly simple and very direct, and to try and really weed out all extraneous non-musical events. It’s really just a matter of simplifying and making everything really work for the music from a rhythmic point of view. I enjoy listening to Steve play, I love the sound he gets, he gets a great sound on the instrument and he plays so simply. And he also has a huge dynamic color, he can play from really pianissimo to triple forte, and knows when to do it and he always serves the music so well. And I think we both like that. I also like the fact that with The Gadd Gang I’m playing the double bass– or the standup bass, the acoustic bass, whatever you want to call it– as opposed to the bass guitar, and I love playing that music with my instrument.
What are your feelings about electric bass? Does it have any appeal to you?
Not to play it, but to listen to it. I like the bass guitar, especially in a kind of functioning way. I love it in dance music– meaning in rhythmic music, groove music. I’m not always keen to listen to bass guitar solos to be honest with you, sometimes not even regular guitar solos or you know, bass solos of any kind. I don’t know, in bass solos I always hear technique, except when you go back more than twenty years. It seems that the bass has become very technical. The bass guitar certainly has, and so has the bass violin, so I hear a lot of that. I don’t always hear a particular unique voice or personality in the playing. I mean, I can tell certain players. I’ll tell you one player I’ve always liked, and he’s the one guy that does both very well, and that’s Stanley Clarke. I think Stanley plays both instruments with his own voice and brings a unique quality to both of them. And I enjoy listening, I get a kick out of it, you know. But otherwise to hear fast guitar playing, whether it’s a bass guitar or a normal guitar, I’m not all that interested. And that goes for the bass violin as well, or the violin, or the cello, you know. I’d rather hear somebody really dig down deep into their soul and their heart and play something elegant or beautiful.
But I do like bass guitar a lot, and I love hearing the old James Jamerson Motown things, hearing Will Lee play, and I like certain Jaco things. There’s a couple of other guys, I mean sometimes I don’t even know who’s playing, I just listen to the groove. I like certain pop music. I like the Black Eyed Peas. I like Prince.
That might surprise some people.
Oh I do, I love that stuff and I listen to that stuff. Sometimes I find myself listening to that stuff more than the so-called jazz. I like the grooves, I love the way it’s all put together. And besides, I love dancing, I think it works. To me music is singing and dancing, and when those things are happening– including in jazz of course, because jazz music sings and dances– it works. You know, you asked me about Steve Gadd, and with other great drummers too, it’s a dance we get involved in. But groove music definitely just goes for that right away, and I like that. So you’d be surprised what I listen to (laughs).