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Development of Technique and Its’ Right of Use Helps Expression and Musicality by Yiorgos Fakanas

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Meet Yiorgos Fakanas –

I would like before anything else to express my true joy at being able through the pages of the hospitable Bass Musician Magazine to communicate with friends and colleague’s, and in particular bass players, and exchange experiences, ideas, and concerns about our strong mutual creative passion.

Coming from Greece, a European country evolving from an ancient civilization and with substantial musical activity today, I have experientially developed a particular mode of analysis and thought on my musical involvement with Jazz, Fusion, and their “offspring’s”, which in my opinion constitute international musical streams, and a universal language of expression and communication. I will try, through this electronic column to convey my thoughts and my view on all those issues which concern our music, and which of course have as their main protagonist, the bass.

I have been a professional bass player, composer, arranger, and teacher of our instrument, as well as Jazz theory for over thirty years. In all that time, I’ve had the opportunity to reap some exceptional experiences and knowledge, and to collaborate with some of the best musicians in the world. And as a teacher, I have followed my new bass students’ concerns and anxieties. As a result of my educational role, I among other things have accumulated a whole list of issues that concern the younger players as well as some professional bass players, issues that relate entirely to music. But I’ve also experienced greater issues as well, more philosophical, artistic, and work-related issues for the new as well as the accredited musician.

A prevailing issue is the need for and the degree of the development of technical dexterity for the bass-player, and to what extent this affects their musicality and expressiveness.

Technique is an enormous issue with any instrument, and there are many conflicting views on its use and utility. I could say that it has its proponents, and opponents. I will try in the following lines to briefly present my own view, knowing that it is impossible to exhaust such a wide topic in a few words. I will simply expose some of the main opposing arguments on the usefulness of technique in today’s musical reality in creative music, merely as a starting point for further discussion and exchange of views between us.

Let’s define, initially, what we mean by “technique” for any musical instrument. It is the totality of actions performed by a musician to adjust their muscular system, at its highest level, in order to carry out the necessary movements required by their instrument, so as to produce the desired result for the performance of simple or intricate compositions. In other words, the versatility and speed of the hands with respect to the musical material at hand determines the extent of technique necessary for the musician, and bassist.

Technique and its development constitute in my opinion the basic determining factor for the potential of each musician for expression. I cannot imagine how a musician without any technique, and whose relation to his instrument is not characterized by any form of dexterity, can aspire, through his instrument and music, to express their sonic experiences, their spiritual mood, and the communicative exchange he or she wants to form between themselves and their audience. Because what differentiates a musician from other people is that he or she creates through the ability to communicate via a musical instrument!

How unrealistic then are the claims, especially by younger musicians, that the development of technique opposes musicality, that it limits freedom of expression by imposing particular paths and forms tried in the past yet restrictive for the progression of new ideas. I believe the exact opposite. Expression alone means nothing for an artist unless they control the technical means of their art. Of course the impulse of the young, who want to acquire years of knowledge and experience as quickly as possible trying to instantly surpass the old and replace it with their own, adopts this type of view about the more scholastic involvement with the musical object. Time is needed, as well as determination and patience, to develop an expressive means to a high level. But it’s a necessary process if we want to play whatever we choose with ease and persuasiveness, and express our mind, heart, and spirit. It is inconceivable for a musician not to know music, and for a performer of a musical instrument not to grasp its technical secrets. It is essential to know the whole in order to be able to use that part of it that inspiration calls for each time, or that the musical work we are called to interpret requires.

However, I do not support the use of technique, for no reason other than exhibition, not serving the essence. Naturally, a musician needs to be able to play intricate melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic patterns, assuming they know each time what and why they are doing it, and not just to show-case the abilities of their hands. Today, a number of bass players use techniques like slapping and tapping merely to impress their audience, without this being obligated by some deeper expressive need. There, and whenever such phenomena occur, we have a misuse of technique. Not because the dense and intense bass line devitalizes the composition, but because in essence it is not called for by the piece itself.

Naturally, I am not suggesting that everything should be simplified so as not to burden the message to the audience. I adore intricate music and intricate bass patterns, as long as their presence is a natural consequence of the work, and not disconnected from it. Intricacy in expression does not invalidate the austerity of a musical work if it is necessitated by the work itself, and accompanied by having knowledge of the use of the mediums.

Conclusion: It is all good, and desirable for today’s bass player to develop his or her technical resourcefulness to the fullest, as long as they are aware that this is a means to an end, the end being inspired expression and a deeper musicality. We should also be reminded for the sake of the argument that the knowledge and progress of technique has never interfered with eloquence in expression. On the contrary, it has helped it shine whenever used with the aim of a high musical outcome.

Yiorgos Fakanas

Bass CDs

New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

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New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

The Chilean bassist, producer and sociologist, Ben Mortiz, celebrates the launch of his latest studio work, “MORENO” an album that mixes jazz, soul, and funk following the characteristic Latin style of  Mortiz. The artist completely produced the album under the label “Fallen Lab Records” in the south of Chile.

“MORENO” brings deep and smooth sounds, expressing a sophisticated and elegant Latin vibe. You will find meditative harmonies and joyful melodic voices. The record’s core is the human vibration that Mortiz feels from the Latin American music. The Caribbean rhythms and strong Latin percussions are the musical glue in every song that emerges with the force of the electric bass.

“MORENO” creates a real connection between corporal reactions and mind sensations, always in reference to the originality of Mortiz to fuse modern and classic Latin sounds.

For more information, visit online at danielbenmortiz.com/

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Gear News

New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Dual Compressor/Effects Loop

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Duel Compressor/Effects Loop

Step Into X2C With Phil Jones Bass Dual Compressor/Effects Loop…

Phil Jones Bass latest pedal innovation is the X2C Dual Compressor with Dual Effects Loop for performance and recording. The X2C incorporates advanced compressor circuit technology and provides comprehensive tone control with a dual crossover feature which divides the signal into frequency bands ranging from 100Hz to 500Hz, ensuring exceptional clarity and dynamics in tone refinement. 

With insert jacks on each band, the X2C unlocks limitless creativity, enabling players to use various FX pedals for custom tone sculpting. Additionally, it functions as an electronic crossover, ideal for driving high-performance, 2-way bass rigs.

PJB’s Dual-Band compression design is more flexible than standard single-band compressors and provides a more natural and transparent sound. It also provides greater control over shaping and managing dynamics where standard compressors affect the entire frequency spectrum of an audio signal.  

PJB’s dual compressor enables the player to shape specific frequency ranges of an audio signal which allows for compressing the low frequencies while preserving the high frequencies, or vice-versa. Treating the low-end with a dedicated band also allows for heavy compression without affecting the midrange frequencies, which carry the attack of the sound. 

Effects can be plugged into the insert jacks on the X2C and controlled separately. As an example, the lows can be adjusted separately for an overdrive pedal while the highs can be controlled for a chorus. 

Dividing the audio spectrum into fundamental frequencies and harmonics is also effective in the enrichment of slapping techniques. The low frequencies can be compressed without changing the dynamics of the “slap”. By controlling the low frequencies and focusing the attack on the slap the amplifier will sound louder while avoiding overloading of the amp or speakers. The low band can be compressed without the harmonics being affected. In addition, the send jacks can go to different amplifiers/speakers for a bi-amplification set up.

Compact and potent, the X2C embodies studio-grade excellence, setting a new standard for dynamic processing in an uncompromising, portable pedal. The street price is $359.99.

Visit online at www.pjbworld.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

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New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

CATTANEO, TIM LEFEBVRE AND ANDREA LOMBARDINI PRESENT ‘HYPERSPHERE’ EP
The members of Buñuel, David Bowie’s band and a prominent electronic artist are united and have releases their first collaborative release via Freecom Hub.

Hypersphere is an EP created by CATTANEOTim Lefebvre and Andrea Lombardini. Following their conceptual milestone, a dream team of bass players and multi-instrumentalists created fragments of music, coexisting and complementing each other individually and altogether. Having been playing with CATTANEO since 2016, Andrea Lombardini describes the process of their work as “strong musical connection”. Starting with the fully improvised set featuring drum-machine and pedal effects. “Some of Paolo’s keyboards are homemade and he has very unique sounds” – explains Andrea. Getting Tim Lefebvre to produce the EP, the duo simultaneously started another vehicle of their collaboration.

Moving their work organically, three extraordinary musicians managed to reach an almost-perfect balance between sounds of guitar and bass with electronic instruments. Morphing together, numerous guitar riffs, loops of synthesizers. Dominating electronic sounds get united with a rock take, depicting dark moods and ethereal landscapes. All these elements work in tandem to create something new each time.

Order Hypersprehere here.

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Bass Events

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey

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Milt Hinton Institute for Bass sSummer Camp in New Jersey

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey…

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will host the Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass, an exceptional summer music education program for teens, in residence at Montclair State University, in July 2024. Unique among music camps, the Hinton Institute is designed to support intermediate and advanced bass players ages 14 through 18, for a week of expert classes, performances, ensemble work, studio sessions, lectures, workshops and more. The camp will run from July 14 through July 20, 2024Registration is open December 16, 2023, through  June 7, 2024for more information on applying to the Milt Hinton Institute, please visit njpac.org/hinton. Student musicians will be required to submit a video of themselves playing two performance pieces during the application process. Need-based tuition scholarships are available.

Peter Dominguez, acclaimed bassist and Professor of Double Bass and Jazz Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, will serve as the Institute’s Artistic Director.  An extraordinary faculty of professionals from the music world — including Rufus Reid, Ben Williams, Luis Perdomo, Jeremy Smith, Sam Suggs, Martin Wind, Marcus McLaurine, Bill Moring, Mimi Jones, Emma Dayhuff, Diana Gannett, and Bill Crow — will  focus camp instruction on bass performance techniques and ensemble playing in a range of musical genres including classical, Latin and jazz. 

The camp is named for Milt Hinton (1910-2000) a prolific jazz bassist, studio musician and photographer whose career intersected with many of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. The Institute has been held biennially since 2014. It joined forces with the Arts Center this season in part to draw a larger faculty of professional bass players from among the many musicians living and working in the New York City area. Notable guest artists from the region are expected to visit with campers as well.    

“We’re very pleased to have this program be part of the larger vision of NJPAC and its extensive Arts Education offerings. The work being done by the Arts Center has a significant social impact” said David G. Berger, a lifelong friend of Hinton’s, whose Berger Family Foundation helped support the camp.  “That would have been extremely attractive to Milt. He wanted everybody to be involved with music — old and young, men and women, all colors, all creeds. Long before it was popular, that’s the way he lived his life — he welcomed everyone.”

“I grew up in the jazz festival business, and there was no one whose artistry matched his heart  better than Milt Hinton,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “He was a brilliant bassist and he also was a brilliant human being. He was the heartbeat of any band he played in and he exuded a kindness that to me exemplified the spirit of jazz.”

Known as “the dean of jazz bassists,” Hinton played with jazz greats from the early 1930s on, performing with Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Erroll Garner, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others. Hinton also recorded with pop superstars including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler and Willie Nelson. Hinton also toured extensively, and in 1993, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship. He was also well known for his photography, through which he documented seven decades of jazz history. Hinton was renowned for his willingness to mentor young players; a scholarship program in his name was established by his friends and admirers on his 70th birthday. After Hinton’s passing, the Institute was conceived as a way to continue his work in supporting younger bass players. “Two of Milt’s favorite words — ‘cohesiveness’ and ‘sharing’ — are at the core of this week-long Institute that brings together emerging bassists who often are the singular players in their own community and school ensembles,” said Artistic Director Dominguez, (whose own career was advanced when he became one of the first winners of a Hinton Scholarship Competition  in 1981).  “To be a bass player is often to focus not on being a soloist, but on musical collaboration — making other musicians in an ensemble sound better. Bass players are the soul of ensemble playing, and to develop these young souls through arts education programming at NJPAC is both an honor for us and an important responsibility,” said David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s Executive Producer and Executive Vice President — and himself a well-known professional bass player.

The camp will be housed on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, where students will live, study and have the opportunity to take part in multiple performances. “Bringing the prestigious Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass to the campus of Montclair State University marks an exciting chapter for the College of the Arts, reinforcing our commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for young musicians,” said Daniel Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts. “With NJPAC as our partner, we look forward to creating an environment where passion meets skill, fostering a new generation of accomplished and versatile bassists. We are confident that the Institute will become a beacon, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds who are the future of bass music.”

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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

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