Well renowned Chicago bassist, Jauqo III-X, recently released a new CD. This recording project was a bold exploration that took the concept of improvisation much further than most projects. Being based in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend this project’s marathon recording session. I attended this session not just for the “hang”, which was epic, but to see and hear first-hand this unusual trio and it’s unusual recording approach. The other unusual thing about this session was that those of us who attended the session got to watch a legendary session musician ply his trade in his natural environment.
Bass Musician Magazine (BMM): Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and our readers about your latest CD. I’ve been looking forward to this interview primarily because I was at the recording session for this CD, along with a few great Chicago bassists, which included Will Howard, Kemet Pryor and Barnum & Bailey Circus bassist Mike Brown. I was especially intrigued by your recording approach. Before we get into that, can you share with us what the title of you new CD is, and list the players that recorded with you?
Jauqo III-X (Jauqo): Thank you Vuyani, and I thank you for this opportunity. The name of the CD is Trioplicity and it features legendary drummer Bernard Purdie and talented guitarist Kudzai Kasambira.
BMM: You are welcome Jauqo. It was incredible, for those of us who were at the session, to watch your session with the legendary Bernard Purdie on drums. Not many get a chance to see a legend like Bernard in a recording session. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of putting together this line up?
Jauqo: I have been listening to Bernard pretty much my entire life but, like a lot of young musicians just starting out, I didn’t know who I was listening to. His playing moved me in such a way that I just had to find out who this gem of musician was, so I would do some searching around until I was able to get my hands on some album credits and in Bernard’s case I wanted to hear every thing that he played on.
The original guitarist that was going to play on the album with me and Bernard was the phenomenally individualistic Pete Cosey. Unfortunately, a couple of days before the session Pete became ill and had to catch up on his rest. Guitarist Kudzai Kasambira, who I had worked with before, was willing and definitely able to step up to the plate, so I reached out to him and from there we were set. The main reason that I wanted Bernard on this project was because his pocket is one of the greatest in modern music. He and I have always had a great history, having played together a few times before the recording made doing this with him that much more powerful. As a kid, it was listening to Bernard that taught me what the pocket was and the importance of the marriage between the bassist and drummer. This includes the importance of having the proper space between the bass and drums, no matter what the musical style or genre may be.
Kudzai had worked with me before in the past on improvised and non-improvised projects (he’s one of the guitarist on my recording “The Low C# Theory“). For me my main focus was to toss any pre-conceived musical thoughts out the window and allow the music to create it’s own direction and speak through a collective and trusted voice of three individuals coming together as one solid vessel. I trusted Bernard and Kudzai to bring it and I appreciate them for doing just that and then some! All the music on Trioplicity is 110 % improvised and I am so proud of the interplay between me and Bernard as a rhythm section supporting each other and especially supporting and respectfully allowing Zudzai to speak any way that he and his instrument chose.
BMM: If I remember correctly, there were no charts, pre-written songs or rehearsals for this session. At the time, it seemed to me like you were all walking a suspended tight rope with no safety net beneath you. This was the most extreme and fearless improvisation I’d ever witnessed. Can you talk about this recording method and what you wanted to accomplish?
Jauqo: No charts at all, and there was no need. I let Bernard and Kudzai know that we were going to go in and what ever happens, happens – just let the tape roll. I definitely accomplished what I wanted and that was catching the three of us making the music manifest exactly as is was being channeled through us. I think some of the better and more true improvisational music comes from the musician applying his or her heart and soul, allowing the instrument to be the heartfelt tool through which their inner being’s deepest interpretation of what is transpiring during the moment is documented. I also was able to capture that very thin high wire balancing act between me and Bernard as a rhythm section and no matter how much freedom the three of us had, it still came down to the fact that the music speaks as a life line focused on saying something to those who make take the time to give it a listen.
I used my Adler fretless Sub Contra bass (C# F# B E), a bass that has the ability to go low, very low and very focused. At the same time, because it can go very low, if not dealt with accordingly, in the wrong hands it can be very one dimensional, but to properly capture such low frequencies even more, it has to be broken up into sections of three, highs, mids and lows,and that’s just the basics to get a proper mix if it’s a proper mix that you’re going for.
During the recording process I went direct into the board, I also went direct from the pre amp (I used a separate pre and power amp instead of a single head) and I mic’ed the cab. I used at least a total of 15 tracks individually, and that was so that when it was time to mix the bass, and correctly mix it with the drums and guitar, I had all the frequencies I needed for a clear and even recording and end result mix. I used no compression at all during the recording process but a little was used during the mix and mastering. During the mixing session, because I had used so many tracks to capture the full spectrum of the bass, I was able to borrow what I needed from the chain of three’s (High’s, Mid’s and Low’s). I mixed the bass to a great point way before I started to bring in the drums and guitar, the mixing process really was that the bass was the foundation, literally. The mastering process was a workout as well, most mastering facilities take a cookie cutter approach and the first thing they usually do is go in dismantling the bass, but the talented Harry Brotman worked with me during the mastering sessions and it went with out a hitch. That was because Harry allowed me to be me, and he agreed with me in knowing that to take away the bass would take away it’s warmth and growl and also block the presence of the properly placed high’s, mid’s and low’s from my playing that is so evident throughout the recording.
BMM: Wow! Fifteen tracks for the bass alone? That’s a lot of tracks! I’m sure that gave you an incredible amount of flexibility when it was time to mix. Again, I’m still amazed by the fact that the three of you went into the session without any charts or some type of framework to play within. Did you record the entire CD in one marathon session? I seem to only remember attending one session.
Jauqo: Haha!, yes that many tracks and the flexibility was definitely needed and I knew that going in. If not for all the tracks, the bass and the overall recording would not be what it is to a great degree. Depending on what kind of sound the bass player is going for, very low bass could be hard to capture, it’s like going after a wild Anaconda but once you capture it, do you want to keep it as is or attempt to tame it in order for you and it to work together?
The whole thing about going in with out charts was something that I’ve always been into and the only frame work was to just capture what we collectively ended with and I’m very proud of the end results. And yes, the entire session was definitely a marathon that took place in one day.
BMM: In many ways, your excursion into extreme improvisation (my description, not yours) on this CD is no surprise to many of us who know you. You are known by musicians all over the world for charting your own course musically. I have to acknowledge and thank you for pushing me into the role of a band leader.
You spent some time living with the late, great Ornette Coleman. Did he influence you to follow your own imagination in creating music, or have you always been musically unique and adventurous?
Jauqo: It could be considered extreme for how we went about it but for me it was just like a walk in the park (laughter). As far as charting my own course musically, I was under the impression from the moment that I first listened to music, in a mind that I could at the very least understand what I was listening to, and like a duck to water I knew that there was no other way for me to be other than be myself. The origins of music is to be an individual and do your best to express your self as such, to not do that is to neglect your self truth and some people wonder why they can’t seem to figure things out musically, maybe if they take the time, heart and courage to give themselves a chance they could be the musician or artist that they think they are.
And you’re very welcome and I’m proud that you are a band leader and I’m sure that it has been an uplifting experience for you in regards to gaining higher levels of musicality and self growth that you weren’t even aware you had in you. Being a band leader can teach one a lot about self.
Ornette was to me what Charlie Parker was to Miles Davis. I felt a kinship with Ornette and I had to meet him. Before I met Ornette I was already leading my own band and trying to figure out ideas and concepts. When I did finally meet Ornette, he acknowledged that I was on the correct track and moving in the right direction.
For the most part he got me and he recognized where I was coming from and that meant a lot to me. We would talk for many hours and a lot of that was about life, and our ideas and concepts and he was sharing many aspects of his Harmolodic concept. Ornette was beyond awesome and sincere and he meant a lot more to me than the musical indivisaul that he was. He simply reminded me that at the end of the day, my musical self is just an extension of where I’m at, where I come from, where I’ve been and where I’m going.
BMM: That was a beautiful tribute to Ornette Coleman. Thank you for sharing with us what he meant to you. Most of us think of him as a legendary giant of jazz, but you got to know him as more than a musician, as a friend. In my experience, I’ve found that music is what introduces us to each other as musicians. After a while, we end up appreciating the friendships far more than each other’s musicianship. That is what I love most about music. It has given me so many brothers and sisters all over the world that I otherwise would not have known.
You have had very long associations and endorsement relationships with many music equipment manufacturers over the years. Can you tell us about some of the companies whose products you endorse?
Jauqo: I’ve been using and endorsing Ashdown Engineering amps, as of early 2016 it will be 18 years. They really deliver and they are some of the most versatile amps on the market – that is one of the best things I like about them. I have never had an issue with an Ashdown amp or cab breaking down on me, always reliable and that is very important. Mark Gooday and all the other guys at Ashdown are really about doing the best that they can to put proper amps and cabs on the market and in different price ranges so as to not leave any one out who may be interested in having their own Ashdown experience.
BMM: Brace yourself Jauqo, I’m going to let out your secret…. I know you are an effects pedal junkie. Would you care to tell us about the effects you like or endorse? Is there a “holy grail” pedal that has somehow eluded you over the years that you would like to get?
Jauqo: Haha! I do like the pedals. I really, really like filters because they all sound so different. I definitely have my share of filters on my board…hahaha! I have pedal endorsements with Xotic, EWS (Engineering Work Store), Digitech, MXR, Pigtronix, Dunlop, Morely, Boss/Roland, Beigel Sound Lab (creator of the original Mu -Tron III ), SolidGold FX, Sub Decay, Daring Audio, Moog, Loud Button, Ashdown/Dr. Green, TC Electronic, Radial Engineering, Peterson Strobe Tuners, Henrietta Engineering, and Guyatone. As far as that holy grail pedal that may have eluded me over the years, thankfully it does not exist for me, at least it doesn’t at this point.
BMM: In your new release, Trioplicity, you used guitarist Kudzai Kasambira and legendary drummer Bernard Purdie. Since this is not your usual trio, can you tell us the name of your trio? Also, please talk a little bit about the players in your trio.
Jauqo: The name of my trio is The Jauqo III-X Reality. It consists of drummer Will McCraven and guitarist Micah Joseph Clark, two very talented musicians that I feel have something to say, while at the same time learning to allow the music to have the final say so. I can say without an ounce of ego that they have never been in a band situation where their individuality is nurtured and supported in the way it is with me. The Jauqo III-X Reality allows their input, while at the same time reminding them that they are students of the music.
BMM: As we close our conversation, do you have any words of advice for our readers? Specifically, can you share with us your advice or thoughts on things that would benefit our readers regarding their professionalism, business etiquette or musicianship?
Jauqo: Yes, I would say the following:
- If you have a hint that you want to be yourself, do it. Some people are going to like what you do and some aren’t. It’s the human way.
- Respect your own voice.
- Learn your worth.
- Be very open minded to music, there’s a treasure trove of awesome music longing to be discovered.
- Always be on time.
- When you are hired to play bass, do not attempt to be the MD or the producer. Just do what you are hired to.
- Respect the gig.
- Make sure your equipment is always in proper working condition.
- Always follow through – always do what you say you will do.
- Play for the song.
BMM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, and share aspects of your career with our readers. You have been very gracious and generous with your time.
Jauqo: Vuyani you are most welcome, and I would like to say thanks to Raul and Valery Amador for allowing me to share on this platform.
Jauqo III-X’s CD Trioplicity can be downloaded from CD Baby.
Jauqo III-X can be reached through the following portals:
- Jauqo’s Website: jauqoiii-x.com
- Jauqo’s Facebook Page: facebook.com/jauqojauqojauqo
- Jauqo’s Twitter Account: twitter.com/jauqoiiix
The CD can also be purchased here. jauqoiii-x.bandcamp.com/releases