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Jimmy Haslip – The Common Denominator


Jimmy Haslip – The Common Denominator

Jimmy Haslip – The Common Denominator By Brent-Anthony Johnson

“Everything happens for a reason!”, laughs bassist/producer/composer Jimmy Haslip, as we recently discussed the latest several recordings to be added his remarkable 40-year-plus discography – which, by the way, includes 13 nominations and 3 Grammy Awards! Jimmy’s most recent Grammy Award is 2018’s Jeff Lorber Fusion release Prototype, of which he has been a full member since 2011.

Jimmy has also toured extensively with guitarist Oz Noy, Jing Chi (with long standing collaborators Robben Ford and Vinnie Colaiuta), and the late, great Allan Holdsworth, amongst others.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Jimmy is now bass deep into projects with multi-instrumentalist Cody Carpenter, keyboardist Scott Wilkie (with guitarist/vocalist Kleber Jorge and drummer Jeff Olson), ELEMENTAL (with keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz and drummer Jimmy Branly), and the incredible ARC Trio (with keyboardist Scott Kinsey, and drummer Gergö Borlai). Always engaging, gracious and a “just, plain good Human Being”, Jimmy Haslip has had the career most professional musicians wish they could achieve… 3-or-4 times over!

In past interviews, Jimmy has always taken time to identify his “Main Gig”, and how he arranges his time to accommodate incoming recording and performance offers around that dedicated home-base. However, for more than a decade his musical world has evolved in the same manner as the “music business” itself into a more fluid, and definitely busier, landscape. So, instead of unpacking a single release, we find ourselves looking at several projects that are related only in the sense that each project has produced profoundly good music that share Jimmy as the common denominator!

Listen to ELEMENTAL here

Stay tuned for more great music from the projects listed above!

Most recently, Jimmy can be seen playing new an instrument by Japanese Luthier Hirotaka Kiuchi of INNERWOOD, his beloved Trickfish amplifiers, Moody straps, and Dunlap strings and effects!

BAJ: Here is the best opener I can think of, man, One of the great truths of 2019 is this: Jimmy Haslip doesn’t need a “Main Gig”, because, it appears, virtually everyone else’s main gig is hiring Jimmy Haslip!”

JH: (Laughter) I am getting a lot of work, right now! Actually, I’m in pre-production for a few new projects since finishing the last sessions! There are the necessary pre-production phone calls, et cetera…

But, I do stand by a statement I made before, about having a “main gig”! My main gig, at this time, is production.

BAJ: Once again we find you in the still eye of the music hurricane that is your life! Congratulations on the Grammy win with Jeff Lorber Fusion, by the way! It is great to talk again, Brother…

You, are a BUSY Man! As I said, congratulations on the win for Prototype! Also, you and Jimmy (Branly) sound awesome on ELEMENTAL! Let’s begin by discussing that hook up!

JH: Jimmy Branly and I have recorded a number of recordings and live performances together, and the time was right to find one of those projects that allowed us to work together on both sides of the mixing board – as Jimmy is also an excellent mixing engineer! In recent years, he and I have recorded several projects that required bass & drums overdub sessions, and we have talked quite a bit about a collaborative project. The new ELEMENTAL release (Blue Canoe Records) is a culmination of our intentions!

BAJ: Though it is very subtle, there is a definite Latin vibe in the conversation you’re having with Otmaro that creates a wonderful, earthy “sub-hook” throughout the record. Was that ever discussed, or intentional in any way? Or, as I suspect, is the outcome from the trance that occurs when you’re playing with great players who happen to be cool people?

JH: Nothing about the genre was discussed between us, and we allowed for a natural turn of events when we began recording the project. As Otmaro explains in our newly released EPK, “The project originally started some years before as a quintet with two other prominent musicians, and we just couldn’t get any support for it. So it fizzled out. This trio recording came out of the ashes from that and, with the motivation of Jimmy Branly, we resurrected something inspired by the fact that we enjoy playing music together. The music naturally has a Latin influence and we ran with it!”

Otmaro is a wonderful composer and he had a bevy of music ready to go. So, we had an instant repertoire that we could focus on for this release. The entire session fell into place largely due to JImmy’s expert recording and mixing abilities, and it morphed into an enjoyable (and creative) whirlwind!

BAJ: What happens next with the Elemental project?

JH: The plan is to all pitch in to promote ELEMENTAL through social media. We are planning to perform! Unfortunately, the touring landscape is growing more and more difficult for new releases – due to budget cuts by festivals around the world. So, being handcuffed by diminishing gig possibilities, we are planning to play those gigs that makes sense geographically and economically. Incidentally, ARC Trio is in the same boat, economically.

BAJ: You have spent many years playing with brilliant guitarists: Allan Holdsworth, Robben Ford, Oz Noy…

It is really nice to hear you alongside pianist/keyboardists in this most recent group of recordings! When we talked last, you were very excited about the session you recorded with Scott Wilkey and Kleber Jorge. Tell us more about that?

JH: Well… I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of great musicians – including the great guitarists mentioned here!

I was invited to collaborate on the very recent recording with pianist Scott Wilkie and drummer Jeff Olson that featured Sergio Mendes’ guitarist and percussionist, Kleber Jorge and Gibi. The recording includes some classic and a few, more obscure, Brazilian music pieces. So, there are songs by wonderful Brazilian songwriters (a few of which have been rarely recorded) as well as original music that was composed by Scott. Those sessions were a true joy on many levels! For instance, it was my first time working with Kleber, Jeff Olson, and Gibi who are brilliant! All the musicians are playing really well, and we’ve had a great time working at Spragueland Studio, which is owned by guitar icon, Peter Sprague. At this time, we are still recording new material and I’m really excited about the project!

BAJ: Oh! I can’t wait to hear the new music from Cody Carpenter! Can we also get a glimpse of what’s to come from him?

JH: This is the second time I have recorded with Cody, and this is Cody’s second solo release (Blue Canoe). It’s really great to work with him as he is a multi-instrumentalist and his music is Progressive Rock focused. Which, is one of my all-time favorite genres! So, working with Cody is right in my wheelhouse! He is a young genius, in my opinion, and his music is inspired, progressive, and challenging! I grew up listening to YES, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, ELP, Soft Machine, Atomic Rooster, King Crimson, RUSH, and Genesis… in addition to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and more blues-based bands that were playing more unique forms of the progressive music of that time. More recently, I have become a big fan of Virgil Donati’s bands Planet X and Icefish, and Virgil was a guest on both of Cody’s recordings.

BAJ: Are there any plans to tour with anyone new this next season? Or, is Mr. Lorber keeping you too busy at this time? Also, you reminded me that Jeff Lorber Fusion released another offering right after Prototype! Wow! Let’s talk about the writing/rehearsal/recording process for JLF! How do you stay on top of all the music Jeff produces?

JH: Jeff has kindly include me on the production side of his recordings, and I have been honored to co-produce 6 Jeff Lorber Fusion recordings: Now’s The Time (with the legendary Bobby Colomby), Galaxy, Hacienda, Step It Up, Prototype, and the most recent release, Impact.

As you mentioned, Prototype won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Instrumental Music, last year, and Impact was released shortly after the award ceremony. Jeff and I have been “on a roll”, and Jeff is incredibly prolific as a composer – he is, practically, writing and producing 24/7 (Laughter)! He has an amazing work ethic that incorporates his musicianship with his own State Of The Art recording studio. Jeff is also a solid and creative recording and mixing engineer, and I have learned, and continue to learn, a lot from him! We have tons of shared knowledge and we write similarly. So, we have a very compatible and creative relationship.

Finally, Jeff is great to work with on all levels, and we have been able to surround Jeff Lorber Fusion with amazing musicians and special guests like:

  • (drummers) Vinnie Colaiuta and Gary Novak, “Lil’ John” Roberts, Ash Sloan…
  • (guitarists) Paul Jackson Jr., Michael Thompson, Larry Koonse, and the incredible Robben Ford…
  • (brass & woodwinds) Randy Brecker, Gary Meek, Eric marienthal, and Andy Snitzer!

Jeff Lorber Fusion is gearing-up to work on a special recording project that is slated for a February 2019 release! We’re recording at JHL Recording, and it has become a Music Machine – to say the least! I am honored to be part of this incredible experience!

BAJ: You were photographed playing a new instrument built by Hirotaka Kiuchi while you were recording the Scott Wilkie sessions. Are we looking at a Jimmy Haslip signature prototype? What other instruments are you recording with these days?

JH: Ah YES…! (Laughter) Hirotaka Kiuchi operates Japan’s Innerwod Guitars and Basses and he is also a distributor of two other projects I endorse: Roscoe Guitars, and Trickfish Amplifiers & Speaker Cabinets.

Hirotaka and I have a long-standing relationship, and he has built several Innerwood instruments for me. The particular instrument in question has become a staple for me in the recording environment. I have used that bass on many recordings, and it is being used on much of the upcoming releases including the new Jeff Lorber Fusion project, and upcoming releases with (pianist/composer) Silvio Amato, and (guitarist) Dave Haskell!

BAJ: You have been spending a lot of time on the “other side” of the control room glass! Which projects come to mind that you didn’t actually play on, of late?

JH: I just consulted the mix and produced two tracks for guitarist Dewa Budjana’s recording “Mahabini” for the MoonJune label! I invited my good friend, (guitarist) Mike Stern, to participate in the recordings and Dewa’s studio band included (drummer) Marco Minnemann, (bassist) Mohini Dey, and (Dream Theater keyboardist) Jordan Rudess. I also co-wrote a song, and Dewa wrote the rest of the material with (Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist) John Frusciante – who also played on the disc.

Since we’re talking about it… I have had the pleasure of working on the following projects that are either newly released, or about to be released:

Melbreeze “Amazonia” which I also co-produced with Scott Kinsey, Michael Franks’ “The Music In My Head” which I co-produced with Gil Goldstein, Charles Blenzig, Scott Petito, and (the late, great) Chuck Loeb, Michael Schmidt’s “Life”, Jing Chi “Suprem” with Scott Kinsey, OUI’3 “Tribe Of Rivals”, Gary Dean Smith’s “Awakening”, and yet untitled soon to be released outings by Luca Di Luzio, Jeff Richman, and Dave Haskell. I co-produced the Dave Haskell release with Robben Ford.

BAJ: This story is hitting the pages of Bass Musician Magazine about the time you’re going to NAMM 2019! The 70’s fashion question, “Who are you wearing?” comes to mind! I know you will be at the Trickfish booth! But, who else will you be spending time with, this year?

JH: Actually… I won’t be attending NAMM 2019 – as I’ll be in the studio non stop with those projects we’ve been discussing and a few more that I have yet to schedule! I will, however, be there “in spirit” with Moody Guitar Straps,Dunlop Strings and effects, Trickfish, MTD, and Roscoe Guitars!

BAJ: Cool, man! I rarely meet, “To busy for NAMM this year!” That’s incredible! Let’s get back to music…

ARC Trio! Please, give us everything! Will we see this live? Can we talk about the “Special Project”, yet?

JH: I really can’t discuss the forthcoming special collaborative project that will include ARC Trio as the rhythm section! But, ARC Trio will perform November 2019 in Bonn, Germany with several special guests in a concert that will feature the music of MSM Schmidt in an event commemorating 10 years of JazzRock TV from Köln, Germany!

As ARC Trio, (keyboardist) Scott Kinsey, (drummer) Gergö Borlai and myself are “on hold” as we await a couple other performances to materialize this year. But, we are planning to follow-up our debut recording. As it stands, there may be an opportunity to record this summer.

This is a new band with all the pitfalls inherent and presented by the landscape of the music business. This is highly experimental music that falls through the cracks of any high profiling and acceptance within the Jazz Festival and Jazz Club community. But, we’re resilient, and we’re happy to record and release our music with the help of Blue Canoe Records. I have a very solid relationship with CEO/Bassist Joseph Patrick Moore, who is a champion of this music!

The ARC Trio is another cool collaborative project with Scott Kinsey and I composing the bulk of the music. Originally, I wanted to direct the music more toward my first solo release ARC (GRP, 1990) which I co-produced with Vince Mendoza, who wrote half of the material. Likewise, ARC Trio has recorded two of Vince’s compositions. I also wanted to include longtime collaborators (drummers) Vinnie Colaiuta and Gary Novak, in addition to adding Gergö – who rounds out the trio. Gergö, Scott and I have been recording together on other projects as well. Scoot and I thought it would be great to add a few “other colors” and that led to the addition of (saxophonist/EWI) Steve Tavaglione, who I’ve worked with extensively, and (EVi) Judd Miller. Executive producer, Rick Denson, helped us with the project’s funding, and served as a vigorously positive and supportive force within the creative process that birthed the ARC Trio! We are all looking forward to the performances and to recording the follow-up material.

BAJ: When we spoke last year, you were wanting to spend more time in the studio and much less time on the road. What does 2019 look like for Jimmy Haslip – all things falling into order?

JH: Yes! That’s the vibe… Spending more time in the studio, and less time on the road! Since becoming a professional musician, in 1970, I have traveled extensively from 1970 through the early 2000s! Though most of that time on the road was with Yellowjackets, I toured with Dave mason, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, and Bruce Hornsby. Later in my career I toured with the Allan Holdsworth/Alan Pasqua Group, the Robben Ford Band, Jing Chi, Renegade Creation, Oz Noy, and Jeff Lorber Fusion! There were also short runs and numerous gigs with a variety of bands and artists. I have travelled all over the world. But, once I made the decision to focus on production and studio work, it made a much needed (and much desired) change in my calendar and scheduling life!

Since 2012, I’ve limited my touring to 3 months per year,and that has been a totally welcomed change, and this year looks to fall in line with this schedule – and, possibly, even less time spent on the road as I look at several new production projects that are in the scheduling phase of their development slated for 2019!

BAJ: I always enjoy speaking with you, Jimmy, Thank you for taking time with us! Again, congratulations on this collection of wonderful music, and thank you for sharing your great gift. Did I mention that your playing is absolutely amazing on everything we’ve tried to cover this time? You sound incredible! So… I’m heading back into the woodshed, now. See you next time!

JH: Many thanks, and very kind of you to say that!

So… to you, Bass Musician Magazine, and the Bottom Dwellers BASS FaceBook site… Thanks for all the good vibrations and support you have given, not just to me, but for all the bassists around the world who are performing, recording, and bringing the gift of music to us all!

Your support means a lot to us (and to me). Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about the music!

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