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The Latin Bass Issue – Amanda Ruzza

Amanda Ruzza – Funk-driven, Brazilian-Influenced Jazz…

BMM Please share with us a little of your personal background… 

AR I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. I moved to New York to study at The New School’s combined double-degree program in Jazz Performance and Liberal Arts.

Besides seeing music as my way life, I also have other hobbies, like foreign languages, reading and power yoga.

BMM What was your first bass, and how did you come by it?

AR My first bass was a very bad Giannini P-Bass imitation. It had a really crooked neck, the strings were very far away from the fingerboard, and it sounded so bad that people would always complain that they could never ‘understand’ what I was playing. Yet, I loved it! That instrument enabled me to be who I am today.

BMM Tell us about that very first day you had a bass in your hands.

AR I always wanted to be a drummer. Since that was never a realistic possibility for me, due to economics and the ‘loud’ nature of the instrument, I decided to try the bass. During my very first bass and music lesson, and having only played the instrument for 15 minutes, I totally fell in love with it, and realized that I wanted to become a bassist for the rest of my life.

BMM As a bassist born in Latin America, do you find this to be an advantage or disadvantage?

AR I never saw it that way… Instead I have always made a culinary metaphor out of it, something like: a Korean never thinks it’s an advantage or a disadvantage to have grown up eating spicy, garlicky dishes, or a Mexican would never question having a spicy egg burrito for breakfast. As a Latin bassist, I never questioned my roots. I’m not better or worse than another musician, I just perform things with a Latin flavor, due to my somehow-spicy-Latin background. 

BMM What are your main musical and bass influences?

AR That’s such a difficult question… 

I listen to all the musical styles known to mankind, so here’s a super condensed list:

Musicians: Tom Jobim, Joe Henderson, Pixinguinha, Earth, Wind & Fire, Elis Regina, Michael Jackson, Sly & the Family Stone, Rufus, Wayne Shorter, Pearl Jam, and many others.

Bassists: Nico Assumpção – my favorite and biggest influence in the whole entire world!

Luizão Maia, Anthony Jackson, Larry Graham, Victor Bailey, John Peña, Arthur Maia, Bernard Edwards and Marcus Miller.

BMM How do you define the music style you play?

AR ‘Music From the World and the Heart!’

BMM How important is reading and studying music theory?

AR I have always felt that it’s part of the language of music to be able to read, write and comprehend music properly. I’ve met so many great musicians who had amazing ears, technique, and could play anything, however they still didn’t get certain gigs, just because they couldn’t read what was written, or didn’t have the theoretical knowledge to understand what was needed from them, or what they could do to enhance the song’s harmony.

BMM What do you consider the differences that technology and the Internet have made for you as a musician, compared to the previous generations that didn’t have these tools?

AR It’s a good and a bad thing. If on one hand people have instant access to information – music, books, transcriptions, lessons, etc, that’s good – on another hand I feel that people are not absorbing all this available information. It seems that people don’t really listen to albums or songs enough to grasp a record’s information. Or, they never focus on one aspect of music education, and end up more or less knowing many topics, but not really knowing things completely.

BMM Tell us about your gear.

AR I only play 5-string basses. My main two instruments are a Ken Smith ‘BSR Elite’ and a Mas Hino custom-made bass. 

I amplify my basses through the Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 head and the SL 112 cabinet.

Pedals are a big part of my sound, and I have a large variety of MXR pedals, like the Stereo Chorus, Bass Fuzz, Bass Octaver, Bass Envelope Filter, Bass Compressor, Carbon Copy, Bass Driver DI, Phase 100 and Way Huge’s Swollen Pickle. 

Also, as an effect tool, and a way to come up with different hand sounds, I use the Gruv Gear Fret Wrap.

BMM Who are your favorite Latin American bassists?

AR As I’ve mentioned above, Nico Assumpção, Luizão Maia, Arthur Maia (Luizão’s nephew) and John Peña. In addition, Fernando Huergo, Bobby Rodríguez, Oskar Cartaya, Cachao and Nicky Orta.

BMM Please leave some motivational and encouraging words for the next generation of Latin American bassists.

AR Don’t let your ability to groove and make people ‘dance’ be your curse. Open your ears to the music from the rest of the world, and not just the rhythms that you know you can easily play and receive recognition for. Study piano, harmony, composition, learn how to read and be open to other cultures and musical flavors.

Visit online at: amandaruzza.com

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