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Hello and welcome again to “BISCUIT’S BASSMENT”, a Bass Musician’s review. In this February 2011 issue of Bass Musician Magazine, I would like to introduce to you my very first female guest here in the Bassment. Here is a Lady that is not only a fine bass guitarist, but also a multi instrumentalist, business woman, and mother too…a very busy Lady Indeed my friends. The Bassment welcomes… Joanne J-Bird Phillips!
Joanne’s upbringing began in the Bronx area of New York in the USA, where she was born into a family of professional drummers and band leaders. Her sense of “natural rhythm” was evident from the beginning, and as a small child her family would often watch this tiny tot dancing and swaying to “Tzena Tzena Tzena”, (the flip side of “Good Night Irene” by The Weavers) before she could even walk.
After a few years Joanne’s family moved to Nassau County in the suburbs of Long Island during her early childhood, and her exposure to music continued as her father taught her to play the drums at the age of seven, with the first tune being “Come Fly with Me”, by Frank Sinatra. Joanne continues to play drums in a local Jazz Standards group to this day, and a photo of her on her Pearl Rhythm Traveler drum kit was even selected for promotion on Pearl’s website.
Her early music influences were Swing, Motown, Bossa Nova and good old Rock ‘n’ Roll. Her family bought her a full orange sparkle drum kit, which was now the second one in the house, as there was already one for her father and brothers.
At the age of sixteen, Joanne was asked to play drums for a local group of teenage boys who were forming a garage band. It appeared that no one else in the neighbourhood could play “Wipeout” correctly, so the guys would cart Joanne’s drums around the block for her so they could rehearse. That young band was called “The Wee Three & She”, and they played at a nearby restaurant for a few sweet sixteen parties for family and friends. But the band just eventually faded away as so many young bands do.
In her early years, Joanne was rarely seen without a radio glued to her ear, and has always maintained throughout her life that music is as necessary to her as the air she breathes. “I just can’t live without it” she says. She became fascinated with sound reproduction equipment while listening to other musicians speak of their small basement studios. She was working in an office capacity in a consumer electronics repair facility, and decided to take some night courses in electronics to learn more about her new found interest.
During the day, she was able to take advantage of the resources around her and also expand her knowledge in the areas of television and audio equipment. Her employer at the time gave her the opportunity to expand her technical horizons, and as a “novelty” gave Joanne a fully stocked repair bench of her own which was placed in the large display window of the store situated in a major shopping centre. So there she was, sitting in the window for all to see, repairing turntables and cassette decks. Not long after that, she retained a position at Harmon/Kardon, a major consumer audio manufacturer, receiving not one, but four promotions in one year alone, and ending up as the only female “Bench Technician” at the facility.
This was like heaven for Joanne who was now working with a small select group of other like minded young music lovers, each of them with their own custom “tech bench”, working with gizmos and gadgets while listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll music on headphones all day! After five years, Joanne left H/K to raise a family and moved to Long Beach, NY, just a few blocks from The Atlantic Ocean and an hour from NYC. During her stay there she converted one of the rooms of her house into a professional audio repair shop, running “Phillips Audio Service” from her home. The business became quite a success and even grew to the point where she had to farm work out. As raising the children became more of a priority, it became more difficult to manage everything. The business was unfortunately put to rest.
Fast forwarding to the 1980’s…Joanne heard Madonna’s “Holiday” on the radio and was immediately drawn in by the bass groove, which rekindled her desire to play an instrument once again. But buying a drum kit and finding a place for it in her home just didn’t seem to be practical. Never having lost her passion for the feel of rhythm and groove, she felt compelled to buy herself an inexpensive Bass guitar which she thought would be the next best thing. This starter bass would be replaced some time later by a 1972 Fender Jazz bass, which she always refers to as her “Main Squeeze”. Joanne felt that she just had to learn and “feel” that groove, and decided to take some bass lessons
Around that same time she landed a job managing a local TV / Audio repair shop working as a bench tech fixing VCR’s and tape decks most of the time while still managing to listen to music as she worked. Many local musicians would often come into the shop for repairs and Joanne soon became friends with many of them, and was invited one day to sit in at two popular, local “open jams”, one of them being Blues and the other, Rock ‘n’ Roll.
After some years as a “regular” at these local venues becoming known around the local community through her work at the repair shop, and also donating her time to various local school and community events, Joanne honed her skills in “putting people together” or what we now commonly refer to today as “Networking”.
During the 90’s, Joanne began to host many popular “music jam” parties at her home, and would continue this over the coming years. They became so popular that she had to have the Rock music parties on Saturdays and the Blues on Sundays. Joanne remembers at one particular gig she must have been quite “hot” on bass. While playing very enthusiastically, the guitarist shouted out ….“Go J-Bird Go!”, and from that day forward, the nick name J- Bird was born.
That guitar player was none other than Turnpike Joe, band leader of Turnpike Joe & the Traffic Jam, a very popular Long Island band performing currently since its inception in1977. He and his drummer had initially asked Joanne to take on the duties of booking the band, but at some point, the work hours changed for their bass player at the time, and so Joanne was asked to play the first sets of their shows until their regular bass player showed up from work later on. Gradually, Joanne increased her Bass repertoire with the band and the rest is history with her officially on board as Bass Player / Percussionist / Agent / Manager and Promoter role since 1993. J-Bird is not just a nick name for Joanne anymore, as she officially had her name legally changed to Joanne J-Bird Phillips, and went on to incorporate her music booking agency, which was aptly named….. J-Bird Entertainment, Inc.
Continuing to performing classic rock tunes of the 60’s and 70’s with Turnpike Joe & The Traffic Jam has been Joanne’s main love, whether in a small venue or a concert for 5,000 people. Joanne is definitely a “Rock Chick” at heart, and has been described as displaying a natural feel for “in-the-pocket” timing, along with a cool sensuality and feel on the bass. She believes in the “less is more” concept by playing simply, and yet tastefully, and with a signature feel all her own.
Joanne’s first love is indeed Rock ‘n’ Roll, and she has been spending the past years booking and performing at large outdoor concert venues with Turnpike Joe & The Traffic Jam and in particular is proud to have been selected the last three years for The Annual Oyster Festival, the largest outdoor waterfront festival on the East Coast of the USA, performing in front of 10,000 people amongst the 100,000 that are on the grounds on a daily basis.
During 2009, J-Bird began her Calypso duo, “TRADEWINDS”, blowing in cool sounds of the Caribbean featuring Nydia “Liberty” Mata & Joanne J-Bird Phillips on Percussion / tracks, and also In the last few years, she decided to pick up the “brushes” and play in a local “Jazz Standards Jam” on drums while still performing regularly with Tpk. Joe & TTJ as well. It felt like “coming home” she says, and this sparked her original love of rhythm and percussion. She also took Conga lessons with her good friend Nydia “Liberty” Mata, percussionist for Laura Nyro, Pete Seeger, Art Blakey, and many others, which increased her skills in hand percussion.
J-Bird has often been sought after to perform percussion parts several times for NYC band Lucille’s Mixed Nuts (Fusion), and since April 2009 on Rock Percussion in Retro69 (Woodstock Tribute) and has also performed hand percussion recording sessions for the upcoming NYC band “The Summarily Dismissed”.
A few years ago, Joanne also invented her persona of “The Trouble Maker With An Egg Shaker!” and has performed on her “Golden Egg” with world class Fusion Guitarist Dean Brown at the Long Beach Jazz Festival, and sits in as often as she can with Master Chapman Stick player, Steve Adelson.
These days Joanne’s presence in the online social media scene has generated a large fan base and she now has several custom “J-Bird” logos which were designed for the upcoming merchandising of bumper stickers, decals, t-shirts, etc. J-Birds motto of “ Keepin’ the ‘F’ in FUN” has now also becoming increasingly popular and people always shout it out when they see her rockin’ on the bass. Joanne is now very highly respected in the Long Island, New York music scene in the capacities of Music Business, Stage Manager, and very much so as Music Performer, and is also an active Advocate for the Arts and belongs to several local arts organizations.
She is a professional Stage Manager and has been hired to manage several music events over the years including The Woodstock 40th Anniversary Tribute Concert / Benefit for The Max’s Kansas City Project at The Triad Theater, NYC, 2009. She was also House Band Percussionist at that event, performing alongside David Bennett Cohen of Country Joe & the Fish.
J-Bird has mentored local high school students on music and fund raising, and has also been hired several times to perform on bass at Goshen High School in upstate New York, performing with their music staff and several “select” high school music students for large fund raising concerts for their Performing Arts Program as J-Bird Entertainment, Inc. She also helps support their music programs, which includes the donation by J-Bird of six Shure SM-58 microphones.
J-Bird continues to be a very busy, creative, and supportive Lady, being a diversified musician with an inborn passion for “groove and feel”, and having a real passion for the bass. She spends her time keepin’ the “F in Fun” for herself and everyone else connected to her, and has a deep passion for music and the community in general. I feel her work should be loudly applauded. Whether working for herself, or others, she has no reverse gear. So I hope you will all join me in wishing her all the very best in her future endeavours, and I would just like to say that it has been my pleasure to feature Joanne J-Bird Phillips in the “Bassment “ this month.
Joanne would like to take this opportunity to thank these main influences in her music career. First and foremost, is her band mate and long time music partner Turnpike Joe, imparting his support, along with thirty plus years of wisdom and experience in live performing. Next is Steve “Stickman” Adelson, one of Joanne’s first teachers on bass who taught her structure and simplicity. And last but not least, the great bass player from The Illusion, Chuck Alder, who Joanne still sees occasionally. Joanne says “there’s always something new to learn, and Chuck is a remarkable teacher of the instrument”.
And of course, my favourite Bass players of all…
1972 Fender Jazz
1982 G&L L2000
2007 Gibson Thunderbird IV
Dean “Playmate” Acoustic/Electric
Carlo Robelli 12 String
Carlo Robelli “Flame Bass Custom made Upright (which Joanne only plays “Wipeout” on, and spins it around)
Fender Precision Squire
DR “Hi Beams” Strings exclusively
Harke HA3500 Head, Rack Mounted Korg ToneWorks Digital Tuner Samson Wireless Remote Unit SWR “Big Ben” 18″ Subwoofer.
Hartke PRO 1800 Subwoofer
Hartke 15″ Kickback
Hartke 4 x 10 Cabinet Pearl Rhythm Traveller Drum Set LP Congas, LP Timbales, and a plethora of Percussion instruments.
The J-Bird is a Huge fan of Hartke bass equipment, and has spent the last two years searching the planet for that Hartke PRO 1800 cabinet, loving the “feel & sound of a fat bottom” from a subwoofer.
Credentials & Affiliations of Joanne J. C. Phillips
J-Bird Entertainment, Inc. – Music For All Occasions, Booking
Agent/Performing Musician/Promotion/Consultant/Stage Management/Arts Advocate
TRADEWINDS …..”Blowing in cool sounds of the Caribbean” New York’s Dynamic Duo Featuring Nydia “Liberty” Mata and Joanne J-Bird Phillips
Associate Producer of Independent Film “Knock Knock” (2007) (Lionsgate/Ariola Productions)
Watch for “Knock Knock” DVD release by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, April 29, 2008! “Answering The Door Will Never Be The Same!” – U.K. Release 2009
Executive Producer of Independent Film “Craig” (2007) (Apotheosis Film-Denmark) (Objektor Film-Denmark)
AFM Local 802 New York – Member
Long Island Arts Council at Freeport (NY) – Affiliate Member
West End Arts – Associate Publicity Director/Board Member
Artists In Partnership – Member/Sponsor
“Art In The Plaza” – Associate Music Coordinator: Visual/Performing Art, Long Beach, NY (2010)
40th Anniversary Woodstock ’69 Tribute Concert/Benefit for L.I. Cancer Care (NY) – Event Stage Manager/Percussionist (2009)
40th Anniversary Woodstock ’69 Tribute Concert/Benefit for The Max’s Kansas City
Foundation (Triad Theater, NYC) – Event Stage Manager/Percussionist (2009)
Texas Pop ‘69 Festival Tribute Concert/Benefit for Rick Walsh Scholarship Foundation (Bethpage, NY) – Event Stage Manager/Percussionist (2011)
Barrier Beach Blues & Arts Festival/”Ladies Sing The Blues” (NY) – Promoter/Event Stage Manager (2009)
Barrier Beach Blues & Arts Festival (NY) – Promoter/Event Stage Manager (2010)
Long Beach (NY) Jazz Festival – Sponsor/Promoter/Event Stage Manager
City of Long Beach (NY) Chamber of Commerce – Member
Long Island Panthers Semi-Pro Football (Founder/1st President)
Long Beach (NY) Community Jazz Jam Band (Drums) – Member
Amateur Observer’s Society of New York – Member (and former Board of Directors member)
The Astronomical League – Member