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The Latin Bass Issue – John Benitez

Interview with Grammy Award Winning Artist, Bassist John Benitez…

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

JB I was born in Rio Piedras Puerto Rico. My childhood was spent between Rio Grande, and Trujillo Alto. I attended Escuela Libre de Musica and studied at UPR and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. Living one year in Colombia, there I married Jacqueline Martinez and we have 3 children, Francis, Kathleen and Joshua. 

In 1993 I moved to NYC to finish a B.A. degree at the Manhattan School of Music, and had the opportunity to play with many musicians. Currently I am working to establish an educational organization called Developing Center for the Arts and Creative Thinking (DCACT).

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

JB My first bass was a 4-string… I don’t recall exactly, but I think it was an Ibanez that I bought.

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

JB …It felt very good. For me to had both rhythm and harmony in the same instrument was very natural and fun because I started playing gospel music with percussion as well as guitar!

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

JB For me it is an advantage to be born in Latin America, because there are a lot of bass traditions in Latin American rhythms and melodies. 

BMM What are your main musical and bass influences?  

JB I’m influenced not only by bass players, but also drummers, guitar players and pianists as well. Having said that, as far as bassists, I would mention Jaco Pastorious, Ron Carter, Paul Chamber, Jimmy Garrison, Dave Holland, Israel “Cachao” López, Anthony Jackson, Jeff Andrews, James Jammerson, Marcus Miller, Ray Brown, Bobby Valentin, Andy Gonzales, Eddie Guagua Rivera, Carlos del Puerto (senior), Salvador Cuevas, among others.

BMM How do you define the music style you play?

JB It is really hard to say that I play one style. I’m a Latino artist and I have been raised with dance music, therefore I love rhythms, melodies and harmony. I try to find this three elements in any kind of music that I play as long as the music grooves.

BMM How important is reading and studying music theory?

JB I know great musicians that don’t know how to read and cannot explain in theory what they play and this does not make them less valuable.  But to be able to read music and understand music theory is very important because otherwise the musician is losing a lot of information; it is like you know how to talk, but you don’t know how to read and write. 

BMM Tell us about your gear.   

JB Well I feel very blessed because I use Markbass amps,  FClef basses and Greyman basses.    

BMM Who are your favorite Latin American bassists?

JB This is a hard question for me, but I could mention Israel “Cachao” López, Bobby Valentin, Bobby Rodriguez, Eddie Guagua Rivera and Alain Pérez.

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

JB It is very important that the artist discover his/her purpose in life at an early stage of their career and pursue their dreams; by doing this the artist will be happy and successful.

Visit online at johnbenitez.com

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