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Berklee Bass Talk: Was Jaco Overrated?

jaco-150This month we revive a column that first appeared late last year… Ed Lucie is the Associate Professor of the Berklee College Of Music Bass Department, and he will be happy to answer your questions! So feel free to ask away, and we will forward your questions to Ed.

Q: “There seems to be some debate among the newer generation of bass players as to whether Jaco was really as good as some say, or if he’s been overrated. In your opinion, how important was Jaco, and where is his place in bass history?

A: First, I am truly honored to be answering this question regarding if Jaco is ‘overrated’ by some of the younger generation.

I ask most of my students at Berklee if they have heard of Jaco. Most say yes, they have heard of him. Then I ask, have they heard him? Many have not, or perhaps just bits and pieces. When I play them some of Jaco’s playing, many just look unmoved. I think this is a generational perspective that cannot be avoided; they never experienced music, especially bass playing when there was no Jaco. They cannot fully appreciate his impact and now they are looking for just technique and gymnastics.

Jaco was a truly unique gift to music. He was one of the rarities that transcend their instrument and yet have such an amazingly personal sound that they can be recognized in one note. Others perhaps include Jimi Hendrix, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Jaco did not ‘play’ the bass, he exuded music through the electric bass guitar. His sound was him!

He dedicated himself to the electric bass guitar (he did not ‘double’). His technique, time, groove, use of natural and false harmonics, chords, and of course, sound, was unprecedented. He was a composer of depth. His knowledge and insight to harmony, harmonic relationships and orchestration was unique and evolving. He was also a band leader and someone who was not bound by any style or category of music. He played jazz, rock, fusion, soul, folk, classical, etc., and always as Jaco.

Finally, beyond the actual music, he was a powerfully inspiring presence who touched the life and soul of countless people. Overrated? I think not. In fact, I think more is to be discovered.

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About Ed Lucie: in addition to being a Berklee professor (and Berklee graduate), Ed has a Masters from the New England Conservatory Of Music. As a pro bassist, he has performed with Stevie Wonder, Buddy Rich, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule, Leo Nocentelli, and has performed both on Broadway and TV. You’ve heard him as a sideman on numerous albums, and perhaps have read his columns when he was a contributing writer for Bass Player.

For more info on Ed Lucie, visit his Berklee page.

 

 

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