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Absolutely Larry Grenadier: September 2021 Issue

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Larry Grenadier - Bass Musician Magazine - Sep 2021

By David C. Gross and Tom Semioli 

Larry Grenadier…

Absolutely Larry Grenadier: September 2021 Issue

Larry Grenadier - Bass Musician Magazine - Sep 2021

Absolutely: with no qualification, restriction, or limitation; totally: used to emphasize a strong or exaggerated statement: 

Chances are if you engage in a conversation with Larry Grenadier, the adverb “absolutely” will emerge several times when the bassist wishes to accentuate a point or two…or three…or four! 

If you are a regular reader of this magazine or any other jazz publication, you know the name Larry Grenadier. His collaborations on stage and on record span Fly with Mark Turner and Jeff Ballard; Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Tom Coster, Mike Stern, Chris Potter, D’Angelo, Herbie Mann, Paul Motian, Gary Burton, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, his wife Rebecca Martin, Harvey Mason, and Joshua Redman to cite a very, very select few. 

Akin to many jazz musicians – Larry is as big a fan of the instrument and the genre as you’ll ever meet. His knowledge and passion for all things jazz are seemingly limitless. 

We chatted with Larry for Cygnus Radio in early 2021 while we were still in Covid lockdown. Among the topics, we ruminated over included his 2019 solo bass album The Gleaners (ECM), his thoughts on education, the divide between classical and jazz, his motivation and inspiration, select recordings, Sinatra, Bay Area bass legends, and the state of the art form that is recorded music – and jazz. 

LG: I was saying to my wife how easy it’s been in many ways. It’s nice to be home! It’s the first time I’ve been “off the road since I was 16… I miss my fellow musicians; I miss playing with a drummer. I’ve done some remote recording and a few streams, but other than that, I’ve been practicing – which I actually enjoy! The hard thing is to stay inspired. The gigs are usually what guide my practice. I’ve also been teaching online and it turns out that my students are doing the same thing as me – trying to keep the callouses from getting soft during written practice…it’s the physical things, especially with the double bass. 

TS: Ive read that your regimen is focused primarily on jazz, is that true? 

LG: I’d say about 50% of it is. I have a hard time with the term ‘regimen’ because I’m not very disciplined. I look at it as fluid – that is, I move with what I am interested in now. A lot of times I approach practice as mastering an etude that I’m trying to get ready for a performance. I look at it pragmatically to increase my technique and then to correct my weaknesses with my technique. 

Classical music for me does that really well. Whether it’s music for bass or any other instrument. And it’s the same with electric bass. Bringing the electric to the upright I take the approach of ‘how do I make this speak on a bigger, thicker stringed instrument? How do I achieve the same clarity? The same drive? So I look for different sources of inspiration. But no, it’s not necessarily a ‘regimen.” 

TS: Interesting that you mention melding upright and electric because your former teacher, Ron Carter, is to my ears, one of those rare bass players who can articulate an upright very similar to the electric. Especially on the soul records he made with Roberta Flack. 

LG: Absolutely! 

TS: Its kind of interesting how the electric bass obviously came so much later and really didnt gain much respect in the jazz world until Jaco came along in the mid-1970s. You started out on electric thanks to your father, who gave you your first electric bass. 

LG: He did. Most of the people of my generation and younger started on electric. And what we grew up listening to was very much informed by the electric. From The Beatles to Jaco Pastorius. We always had the radio on and absorbed what was on the charts. 

DG: And youre from the west coast so make that Jaco and Rocco! As in Tower of Powers Francis Rocco Prestia! 

LG: Yes! (laughter) The amazing thing about the East Bay – that moment in the late 60’s early 70’s we had Larry Graham, Rocco, Paul Jackson, Doug Rauch, and many others. And who was the guy who replaced Larry in Sly & The Family Stone? 

TS: Rustee Allen! 

LG: Yeah, Rustee Allen, he’s another great player…. but there was a guy who played with a pick – he’s still around. (Larry, David, Tom could not recall Bobby Vega whom LG was referring to….) 

It was a great moment for bass in the Bay Area. 

TS: And lets not forget Jack Casady, Phil Lesh… 

LG: Absolutely! I’m just getting into Jack Casady now and appreciating him after all these years. He’s not only a great player, but he changed the way bass is played. 

TS: Was your father seeking a bassist to back him up and outline the changes!? 

LG: (laughter) He had stopped playing by the time we were born, actually. But he instilled the music bug in me and my two brothers. My brother Steve played guitar, Phil played trumpet, and he thought the bass would be a good instrument for us to all play together. It could have been drums, I’m not sure exactly why he chose the bass. 

I took to the electric bass really quick. I played in a band right away – one week of holding the instrument I was gigging. 

DG: Well, its only four strings! 

LG: (laughter) Absolutely, and you only have to play one note at a time! How easy is that! It was pretty easy for me to cop stuff off records. The idea of playing in a band right away – to me, that’s what music is about. I’m glad for that because I think about the opposite – having to practice by yourself for years before you even get to play with other people. That sounded so sad to me! 

DG: One of the main reasons I wanted to have you on is to discuss how electric players can learn from acoustic players and vice versa. I was blown away by your double bass workshop in Britain where you went up your scales one way, down another, up another way, and down another way…and I thought oh my God, I just got the idea for a new book! 

[NOTE: the title of David’s book is: Learning the Fingerboard for the Six String Bass and The 6-String Bass Warmup which are available on TheBassGuitarChannel.com

LG: (laughter) Great! 

DG: Lets talk about your bowing technique, I was listening to Edwin Barker: his bowing technique is amazing. Then I listened to your recent solo bass album The Gleaners (ECM) and I think wow, thats pretty flawless as well!” Would you say your classical practice is helpful, especially in terms of the arco technique? 

LG: Absolutely, Classical is good for… everything! That’s why I encourage all my students to study classical. It informs everything – the right-hand bow technique, and the led hand becomes really magnified in some ways. Obviously with intonation… but with shifting, and moving around this really big fingerboard. 

For example, this idea of improvising fingerings for scales, this kind of came out of that practice for me. Trying to feel comfortable with the whole fingerboard right away, have freedom of movement, and express myself in the way that I see fit – sonically – for whatever situation I see myself in. It’s important to not feel limited to a certain area of the bass – and to get out of your comfort zone. 

To me, studying and practicing classical opens up the full expression of the instrument. And gives me the confidence to move around and to grab notes at any point – simply because you’re cool with it. And you know you can get that sound you’re looking for and the intonation is going to be good when you have classical chops. You can move around in any area of the bass. 

And I think just musically – we’re talking seven hundred years of information that organized in such a beautiful way. Jazz definitely comes out of this type of music. For me, melodically, harmonically all that classical stuff really informs my jazz playing. The bow, to me, it’s a lot more than just the right hand. It’s a whole way of enlarging your scope of what you are taking in. 

DG: I think also when you are going up and down the neck, in various ways, you’re beginning to hear intervals a bit differently. When I was at Berklee a million years ago when the electric bass was considered a ‘bastard’ instrument, so many of my teachers told me to get my ears in shape. Ear training became ear straining! At the same time, with your approach – being anywhere and being comfortable – is directly related to ear training. 

LG: That’s true! Absolutely. You have to hear the note before you play it. Intonation is such a huge thing with the upright bass. We need to play it in tune, and that’s not easy. One of the things that really helps is hearing the pitch before you play it – so you can adjust right away if it’s slightly off. That’s another part of ear training. And also hearing it and knowing it is really the center of the pitch. And that’s another type of ear training. It’s not exactly perfect pitch, but you get to that point where you feel the bass vibrating when that pitch is really in the center. And once you can do that really well, then you can play around with the pitch – say you want to play a little flat – you can be in control of that. 

DG: Your solo bass record, The Gleaners (ECM) – which I feel is essential listening – could not have been better recorded. ECM is the premier record company akin to Blue Note was in the 1950s in that they understand how to capture everything with regard to sound. Did you do any interesting tunings on The Gleaners or is that standard E – A – D – G? 

LG: The discoveries for me when I was preparing for that record were checking out different tunings on the bass. I experimented for a while and found some that I liked – and they were typically all lower-pitched. When I tuned ‘up’ it was interesting, but sonically it did not move me in quite the same way. When I would tune things down, and they weren’t in perfect 4ths – I combined 3rds and 4ths – all of a sudden the harmonics changed but the way the bass vibrated changed! That consequently inspired me to play different music. 

At first, it’s a way to come to the instrument anew. I would never have played it that way in standard tuning! On the title track, I believe the tuning is, low to high D – G – D – F#. 

DG: Did you compose the title track for the artist Jean Francois-Millet about his 1857 painting? 

LG: You know how these titles work! It’s the seed of an inspiration! I saw this great movie by Agnes Varda entitled The Gleaners and I (2000) and it connected with not only the times we’re in but what I was thinking about while practicing – so it came out of that. 

DG: Tomorrow we have an interview with Michael Manring who is the King of De-Tuning the Bass!” 

LG: Yes he is! I started doing some solo concerts after the record came out and the tuning thing becomes kind of an issue. It breaks up the flow of a concert – luckily I’ve gotten much quicker at tuning on stage but in the studio, it’s much easier. 

DG: Tom and I have always said there are the bass players who are pre-Jaco and there are the post-Jaco players. Pretty much every rock and roll bass player out of Britain, who was listening to the blues grew up on Willie Dixon. Is there a blues riff that Willie Dixon didnt write? 

LG: (Laughter) Hopefully Wille had some money at the end of his life! Yes, it’s a different thing. And I think, you know, in the 1970s and 80s, you know, we get more into the ‘rock’ and less of the roll. 

That’s why it’s so important that we talk about history. Yeah, we want to be contemporary bass players or contemporary musicians, but we also need to inform ourselves so that our music maintains a certain groove and vibe, which to me comes from the past. 

And the further we get from it, the more possible it is that we lose it. So that’s even more of a reason to continue to do research to check out from where this all came out of, which is primarily the blues. It informs our rhythmic parts mostly, phrasing… where we place the beat. 

TS: A topic David and I address with all our guests is the album format in the 21st Century. With streaming videos and songs I can access music at my fingertips. Is a long-player collection of compositions by a single artist relevant anymore? The journey that the artist takes you on a record… which we played until it wore out – is that All important? Is it the best of times or the worst of times? 

LG: That’s the big question! 

I mean, I kind of base it on what I see my students dealing with since that’s most of my connection with younger people. It’s both. As you said, I think there’s a beautiful opportunity to see people play on YouTube. When I first went to Japan, when I was in my 20s, I used to go to this video shop that had bootlegs and gather all these types of people I had never seen before. Now it’s all available for free on your computer. And that’s cool. 

However, there is this burden of information for young players which they are dealing with. I think there is a certain anxiety that goes with it. “I got to know how to play like Jamerson…I got to know how to play like Jaco…it’s a lot of stuff. And it may force people to move on too quickly. It’s an immediate feeling of “I got that, what’s next….” 

Whereas we would sit with a single record for weeks or months and absorb it slowly. It’s a mix. I think it puts a lot of pressure on how we take in information. We have to make sure we are as thorough as we can be and not feel this pressure of moving through it all too quickly. 

For example, I didn’t know how to play Cuban music at all when I came to New York. And then I started playing with Danilo Perez. And he would tell me who to listen to. He turned me on to these great recordings, and I soaked it up… I didn’t ‘master’ it at all. I was pragmatically getting it together so that I could get through the gig. And the reason is that you do not have to master everything! You need to get a sense of what the style is. Where is it coming out of? What is the essence of the music? 

DG: Lets chat about your new album The Gleaners. I love how once again, it’s an ECM recording. And once again, the sound is just fantastic. And the ECM album covers are works of art! 

The Gleaners

LG: Yeah, this is the whole aesthetic of Manfred Eicher (ECM founder/producer). It’s like the whole thing is connected, right? The way it looks is the way it sounds. 

And you recognize it immediately. Manfred also is a visionary. He doesn’t really say much while you’re recording. He has more of a hand, I would say, in mixing the album very quickly, kind of off the cuff, but he finds it really quick. And he is great at sequencing the album – which was helpful for me. 

You know, the mix was interesting because I recorded The Gleaners in New York, but I happened to mix it in France with Manfred, and a different studio. And did I think we started at 9:00 AM in the morning, and we’re done by 12:30? Super-fast! With him, it’s really kind of jazzy in that way. It’s like, kind of go with your instincts. You know he has great instincts. 

And he is a former bass player so his affinity for the instrument is incredible. And that’s true of all the instruments on ECM records. I grew up loving those records in part because of the bass always sounding so great. 

DG: Think about all of the ECM albums you have appeared on! 

LG: The first ones I did were with Charles Lloyd and we developed a relationship over the years. 

DG: Your version of Lotus Blossom” on Charles Lloyds The Water Is Wide (ECM / 2000) has such a fabulous sound! 

LG: That was a great record, and the very first record I’d played with Charles. I had played with Billy Higgins when I was a kid, well, I was 18. He was always one of my favorite drummers so to get to play with him again was really amazing. And that includes the gigs we did after the record came out. And I was playing with Brad at that time at a club called Largo in Los Angeles. So we did that record during the days… the vibe was just right. Everything came together and the sound matched that energy. 

DG: And its scary how he can reproduce that Rainbow Studio” sound anywhere! 

LG: Right, well that was actually done in another great LA studio – yeah good engineers – good musicians! Most records should sound better than they do! It’s not rocket science! The sound has to be there from the beginning, it comes from the player. And then it has to be caught thoughtfully and carefully. 

TS: When I think about your solo bass album The Gleaners, we bass players in the studio and on stage are always surrounded by other musicians – talk about the experience of being all alone! 

LG: I wish I’d talked to you guys before I did because that’s the one thing I did not think about! (laughter) I was just concerned with the music. Once I started playing by myself in the studio I thought ‘whoa this is really bizarre!’ Because as you say, we bass players are always reacting. So that was a strange moment where I had to come to terms with it pretty quickly. We only had two days to record! 

Once I could hone in on the sound of the instrument in the room, at Avatar in New York City. It’s not a huge room, but it has a nice sound to it. Once I could feel the sound coming back to me, that’s what I was playing to. I was reacting to that sound as opposed to a drummer or other instruments. 

DG: The tune Pettiford” I assume you have a strong affinity for Oscar Pettiford. 

LG: Absolutely! 

DG: There was one unreleased song entitled Deep Passion” – are you familiar with that composition? 

LG: Yes! With Lucky Thompson! I love that song – we used to play that tune with Fly (a trio with saxophonist Mark Turner, and drummer Jeff Ballard) 

DG: On our radio show were going to play your version of Pettiford” followed by Deep Passion.” 

LG: Great! That is a passionate song… I got into him very early. Somehow, I saw the record and I liked the cover and I bought it. I immediately connected with his clarity. And his melodicism and the way he brought the bass out front. I have so much respect for him and what he brought to the instrument. To me, he is one of those seminal figures between swing and be-bop. He really helped bring us all into another era. 

DG: You take Jimmy Blanton, and then Pettiford is the next step. 

LG: Absolutely, and then you have Ray Brown. 

DG: Another thing I want our listeners to get is that to be a consummate musician – you cant just listen to the idiom you just listened to! 

LG: Well, this is what I am always saying about the beauty of the bass. And it’s great for electric bass players to know too – the bass’ function in every type of music is the same. What we give the music, how we show the form, the harmony – by playing the rhythm it feels better than if we were not playing. And then there is all this melodic content that is the counterpoint that is happening throughout the whole tune. And whether it is repeated as in pop music or it’s always changing as it does in jazz – it always has the same function. 

The bass player is in a great spot to recognize that all music is the same… and our sources of inspiration are endless! We are in the position where we can go to Bach…we can go to Jimi Hendrix…we can go to Delaney & Bonnie… it’s all wide open! 

TS: Early in your career you worked with many legacy artists

…Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Jack DeJohnette, Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian…now think about all the great bass players they worked with and made great records with – Charlie Hayden, Ron McClure, Ron Carter, Scott  LaFaro…the list goes on. When you worked with these icons – did you ever try to reference those players? 

LG: I think I did that in my early years. I had soaked up a lot of influences from those people you mentioned. Some of it was transcribing and some of it was just figuring out just by doing a lot of listening to their records. So when I went to play with those people, I wasn’t consciously thinking of it – but at certain moments I would think of those players and it would just come out! 

That’s the thing, you take all these influences and then you sift through them and then eventually at the end – it’s you. 

I can listen to certain records I made and say ‘oh yeah, I got that from Charlie Haden… I got that from Ron Carter…’ I’m hoping that other people don’t hear it like that. I hope they’re hearing this whole thing that becomes me. 

TS: This shows the importance of knowing the history of the instrument. 

LG: Absolutely. Every once and awhile I run into somebody who has no idea of the history of the instrument, and yet they still play really well. But I think being aware of those who came before us helps us, it informs us and helps us develop our own sound eventually. 

We’re at a different point now where there is so much information out there…and so easy to access it – so it can be a bit overwhelming. When I was a kid I had one record coming in a month, now you have millions of records available with a click. 

You have to study. It’s like anything else – if you want to do it well – even if it’s cooking – you go to someone who does it better than you. How do you learn to walk on the blues? I’m going to listen to Paul Chambers. I’m going to listen to Ron Carter. Or Jimmy Garrison. And why wouldn’t you want to do that if you are trying to do something! You go to the source! 

The only drawback is if you get super hooked up on one person. 

TS: David and I were recalling the 1970s wherein it seemed that every bass player added a bridge pickup to sound like Jaco! 

LG: Right! And that’s the thing – no matter what – nobody can really ‘sound’ like Jaco Pastorius no matter how hard they try. 

DG: Tom and I have an idea: if you give two ten years olds a bass each, one electric and one acoustic; the electric player would be given links to YouTube and the upright player would be given Simandl. 

LG: Right! You know, I have this issue with classical and jazz. It’s extremely separated from the way it’s taught in schools. In addition to the physical walls, there are mental ‘walls’ between the two music departments. The jazz student may be able to take one lesson per month with the classical teacher, but never does the classical student take a lesson from the jazz teacher. It’s a territorial thing that does damage to both musical disciplines. It’s not helping either music to grow. 

I think it’s a little better now than it used to be. Like you men.on David about how the bass guitar was viewed negatively at Berklee. And that feeling still exists. In the States, I still find this distinction between the departments. 

I’ll just come out and say it – I feel the classical musicians just don’t understand what we are doing as jazz musicians. They think that we are playing whatever we want to play off the top of our heads! So they don’t really see it as relevant to their own music and how it can inform their own playing. Now that’s not everybody, but I’m speaking in general. 

DG: I agree with you. 

LG: It does a disfavor to the music as it grows into the 21st Century. 

DG: Solo bassist Gary Karr once said I like to paint myself into a corner then find my way out!” 

LG: See, to me he is the exception. He always appreciated jazz bass players connected with Richard Davis – he is the great example to me of how jazz informed his classical playing and vice versa. Just like with Edgar Meyer and how his bluegrass country music is informed in the same way. But in academia, it is very confined. And to me, that is very limiting. So I always ask jazz bass students to take lessons from classical instructors. And classical players should show up to the clubs and see what we are doing. 

DG: So let’s talk about Wofgang Muthspiel and DAngelo. 

LG: Oh, yeah, Wolfgang, yeah, yeah. I met him in 1990. When I was playing with Gary Burton in Boston. 

My friend, Donny McCaslin, who was playing saxophone, told me that Gary was looking for a bass player. I went out there. I met Wolfgang, as he was playing with Gary that year as well. Yeah, we just kind of connected and we started to play together once we both led Gary, I guess in ‘91 as he started getting his solo career going. And we were playing a lot in Europe at that time. 

I’ve always appreciated his compositions. Like me he’s another guy who was very much influenced by classical music and brought that into this composing, we’re kind of connected in that way. And then these records he did for ECM, you know, he kind of put together kind of an all-star band. With Brad (Meldau), Brian Blade, and Ambrose Akinmusire, people like that. 

It was just another one of those things where you go into the studio, it sounds good right away. It’s like, you can’t really mess it up because it’s all cool. Like even if you mess it up, it ends up sounding good, you know? 

Earlier when I was in New York, I did a record with D’Angelo, which was his first record. When I first heard his stuff. I was like, ‘oh my God, this guy, he’s got everything harmonically, rhythmically …it was a no-brainer that this guy was going to be huge. To play bass on his stuff was like playing with Stevie Wonder or Donny Hathaway! 

DG: For our show, lets talk about your trio recording of the tune Ode” and then we can segue into the song Toward The Light” when Pat Metheny joined in. 

LG: Well, first of all, ‘Ode’ to me is an amazing composition. I think Brad has written some tunes that could be classified as standards. I’m sure they will be thought of as such. He has a unique fingerprint with a composition that steeped pop music, classical music, jazz… certainly a unique voice. 

‘Ode,’ is a kind of a pop tune with a lot of harmony. It’s also one of those tunes, like with Brad, you’ve been playing so long, and he’s written so many tunes that over the years, what we’ve done touring wise, it’s kind of always been doing new material. You know, as he writes it, in the last few years, we’ve been talking more about, let’s bring in some of the older tunes, let’s place those tunes that we played at the beginning of the middle and just reinterpret them as we are now. And that song is one of them that we were playing up until the Covid pandemic. It’s kind of neat to do that too, to see how we play them now, maybe ten years later. 

With Pat, I had been playing a trio with Pat, let’s see, that would have been, you know, the late ‘90s off and on that time. Pat and Brad were big fans of each other. There was definitely a musical admiration that goes in both directions. It just seemed like the right thing to collaborate. I remember that recording really well because my wife Rebecca was pregnant and about to deliver any day. And I was going back and forth into the city to record hoping to get back in time. It was a bit of added anxiety for me to do that record. 

But what else do I also remember that we did it in the studio, that’s no longer there, in Midtown Manhattan on the far West Side – Right Track Studio. I had never been in such a huge studio. It was like, you had to almost get a golf cart to go from one end to the other! We weren’t really that close, it was kind of a weird setup because it was such a huge room. It was one of those things like, ‘I hope this works!’ 

Then we went out and toured for a nice big chunk of time after that and got to play a lot of that music together live and to broaden it and expand on it. Like anything, it just always gets better. It gets more open. Playing with each other, we figured out how to go to a deeper place. And it’s funny because I was thinking, ‘wow, it would be so great to do it again.’ Now, whatever it’s been like fifteen years later. So hopefully, that will could be something that we could get to some more and see what develops! 

DG: This morning we went out to get coffee and I had Odeon in the car and my wife said that reminds me of a Stevie Wonder song!” 

LG: Oh yeah, it’s a really beautiful tune. Rebecca wrote some lyrics to it. And we’ve recorded it too and played it live. It is kind of a pop tune actually. Harmonically it’s pretty inventive. And also, just the way Brad arranged the layering of the bass which is kind of ‘out’, and then it kind of joins in with the melody and gets really a different setting. 

DG: I’m a big Sinatra fan. And when you were playing with Ethan Iverson, you did What’s New?” 

LG: That’s a great tune. It’s a classic. I mean, if you always if you want to learn standards, go to Frank Sinatra! He covered all the great ones. And if you go back to a lot of these early singing versions, there are different keys – so you learn them in different keys, which is always helpful as a musician just to be able to move through keys on the same tune, but also how the key of the song greatly affects the mood of the song. 

DG: It’s interesting that he picked that song from that record, because to me, Only the Lonely” may be the greatest Sinatra record, bar none, with Lee Konitz – theres a whole Lennie Tristano” thing going on there as well. 

LG: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that was a fun record (Ethan Anderson / Costumes are Mandatory – 2013). That was another record that was probably done in like six hours. We had not all played together as a quartet before. Lee Konitz was amazing. He was one of those guys you notice from that generation in one note! Sonically it’s right to the center of the heart. I remember on that date I was looking down and he had a towel in his horn while he was recording! I wasn’t sure if he was aware that he led it there or he was trying to get that sound! I didn’t say anything. A little later it was out of the horn, perhaps he led it in! Those guys could do no wrong! 

DG: But don’t you find it interesting that you’ve got this chunk of metal and can tell Coltrane to Konitz to Barbieri in a note or two! 

LG: Right! It’s unbelievable. And you know, I always think of that with the piano too, which is such a mechanical instrument. But you have two piano players sit at the same piano, you get two different sounds. You know electric instruments unique like that, too. Electric guitar, electric bass…So that’s the beauty of music, it’s made up of individuals and personali.es that change the way we think about that instrument. 

DG: Its all in the hands, the heart, and soul! 

Absolutely! 

Visit Larry Grenadier online at larrygrenadier.com

Want more?
Check out the YouTube Notes From An Artist interviews
VIEW PART 1 and VIEW PART 2

David C Gross has been the bassist for a lot of folks. He has written 14 bass books and 3 instructional videos, hosts “The Notes From An Artist Radio Show” on www.cygnusradio.com Monday nights 8 PM EDT, and the “Notes From An Artist” podcast available on iTunes, Spotify and all podcast platforms.

NFAA brings you behind the scenes with individuals who forged a timeless musical canon – spanning rock, jazz, funk, blues, folk, country, and permutations thereof. Listen to stories and anecdotes hitherto untold and relive more than a few chronicles that have become lore with a fresh vision. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. Celebrate the past, live in the present, and anticipate the future – take Notes From An Artist

You can contact David @ www.thebassguitarchannel.com/contact for more information regarding his online lessons and world-renown correspondence course.

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Will Turpin, Celebrating Collective Souls 30th Anniversary – June 2024

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I am sure many of you will remember my chat with Will Turpin in 2018 when he released his solo album Serengeti Drivers.

We had a chance to get together again as his band, Collective Soul, is celebrating their 30th anniversary and releasing their new album “Here to Eternity”.

Join me as we get caught up on the new album and all of Collective Soul’s projects, the details about his very own Real To Reel Studios, how Will gets his sound, and all the cool plans and projects going on soon.

Here is Will Turpin!

Photos: Cover, Derek Alldritt | Video Photos, Derek Alldritt, Lee Clower, Brian Collins

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Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy - May 2024 Issue

Guy Pratt, Not Your Average Guy – May 2024 Issue

For me, the bass is like this poor dutiful, loyal kind of wife.  I go off and have my affairs and run about town, then I always come crawling back to her… Guy Pratt

By David C. Gross and Tom Semioli

Photo Courtesy – Cover Photo, Paul Mac Manus | Promo, Tarquin Gotch

Most rock and pop devotees know the individual names, likenesses, and other “intimate” details of their beloved ensembles.

Everyone has/had their favorite Beatle… darling Rolling Stone… preferred Led Zeppelin, their chosen who’s in the Who – etcetera. 

And even in those instances, the enigmatic lead singer and swaggering lead guitarist garner the most consideration in the public eye. Aspiring drummers, keyboardists, and bassists will naturally gravitate to their said instrumentalists. Civilians could care less.   

In the case of the singular artist, it’s all about the headliner, and quite frankly, that’s just how the nature of rock celebrity works. It’s the name on the ticket that counts. 

On rare occasions, the second banana gets peeled: Mick Ronson spidering beside David Bowie, Steve Stevens rebel yelling in the service of Billy Idol, Scotty Moore twangin’ with Elvis Presley, and Steve Vai shredding alongside David Lee Roth, to cite a select small number. “Very few are chosen and even fewer still are called…” to quote Warren Zevon who piled his craft with guitarist Waddy Wachtel in tow. 

Rarer still are the sideman/session bass players who somehow catch the slightest edge of any spotlight. Motown legend James Jamerson Jr. was not recognized until long after his passing by way of the 2002 Paul Justman documentary Standing In The Shadows of Motown which was a surprising box-office success and consequently spurred on similar films such as The Wrecking Crew (2008) Muscle Shoals (2013). Even then, these studio cats’ time in the sunset as soon as the film credits rolled. 

Other bassists in the strictly accompaniment arena catch a notable wave by the nature of their unique contributions to international hit songs – witness Pino Palladino with Paul Young (“Every Time You Go Away”). Studio ace Will Lee (for whom David C. Gross oft subbed), gesticulating in proximity to charismatic bandleader Paul Shaffer, was visible to millions in his four decades with Late Night with David Letterman, and The Late Show with David Letterman. Rarified air indeed. 

Which brings us to Guy Allen Pratt. Born in 1962 in a place called Lambeth London, Pratt came to the instrument in the funky 1970s when bass, thanks to improvements in audio and recording technology, could actually be heard on the radio and on hi-fi record players of the day. Rather than prattle on about Pratt’s formative years, we highly recommend his hysterical autobiography My Bass and Other Animals (2007) Orion books.   

David and I love talking to our record collection on Notes From An Artist. Guy not only talks to his record recollection on his podcast Rockonteurs with co-host Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet fame but he’s played with them! You (lovable) bastard!

Guy’s credits on stage and/or in the studio span David Gilmour, Roger Waters-less Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Iggy Pop, Icehouse (of which he was a band member), Kristy MacColl, Robert Palmer, Gary Moore, Debbie Harry, Johnny Marr, Robbie Robertson, Peter Cetera, Tears for Fears, David Coverdale- Jimmy Page, All Saints, The Orb, and Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, among others. Impressed, you should be!

If you’re a listener to Notes From An Artist and Rockonteurs – and you should be – you will immediately recognize the simpatico synergy between the two shows. David and I don’t have the piles of platinum discs that Guy and Gary have earned over the years, but we’ve been there and done that – the tours, sessions, the travel, the good deals, the mostly bad deals…

Hence our interview with Guy was not the typical linear podcast that one normally experiences with the obligatory introduction, tastefully imbedded product plug and follow-up, anecdotes, and farewell until we meet again.

Nope. Not even close. From the get-go, our discussion was enjoyably out of control. Akin to caged animals let free in the wilderness, the three of us came out chomping at the bit – with unbridled enthusiasm, one-upmanship, blotto bravado, and many joyful verbal collisions (“taking the piss” if you will). 

Much like the popular Jerry Seinfeld TV series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee – note that Guy also performs stand-up (or sit-down) comedy – we were chuffed to talk shop and then some sans the usual (and necessary) constraints of the radio/podcast format. 

You have been warned. Here are excerpts from our free for all! 

NFAA TOM: Let me introduce our audience member to Guy … 

Pratt abruptly interrupts the prolog when he spots David’s custom Ken Bebensee six-string bass replete with a pinkish hue complimented by neon pink DR strings behind Gross at the onset of our Zoom chat.  

GP: Whoa, what is that? It looks like some sort of psychedelic Ampeg bass!  

NFAA DAVID: No! This is my six-string bass designed by a guy named Ken Bebensee with obligatory pink strings. You know, it takes a tough man to wear pink! 

NFAA TOM: Non-binary strings? 

GP: I don’t know that it does! Pink was a big 1950s color. Black and pink in particular. It was a big punk thing too. The Clash wore black and pink. Elvis wore black and pink. 

NFAA TOM: Good observation Guy. 

NFAA DAVID: The strings are great on stage because they glow under the lights which is very cool…

NFAA TOM: …much like the bass player. 

GP: Tom..that’s a bass behind you as well (Pratt eyes Tom’s 1981 Steinberger XL – placed strategically to compliment David’s instrument) 

NFAA TOM: Yes I set this out for our Johnny Marr interview …I know he’s a big fan of Steinberger instruments.

 NFAA DAVID: It used to have a headstock…

GP: Johnny is definitely not a fan of those basses..

NFAA TOM: Yes I knew that factoid from reading your book My Bass and Other Animals. I’m using irony here…

GP: That’s why I bought ‘Betsy’ (“Betsy” is Guy’s nom de plume for his 1964 Fender Jazz Bass once owned by John Entwistle. Pratt purchased this instrument at the behest of The Smiths guitarist whose penchant for traditional instruments is well known. Marr felt the modish graphite Steinberger – which Pratt preferred – was not suitable for his post-Smiths aesthetic.) 

NFAA TOM: You started Rockonteurs podcast with Gary Kemp during Covid lockdown, circa 2020, yes?

GP: This is the funny thing, we started it before Covid. The idea came to us being on the tour bus with the Saucers (Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets band). I needed to while away the hours on our first European tour. In those days the buses still had DVD players. I brought along a box set of The Old Grey Whistle Test (a popular British television show which aired from 1971 -2018 featuring performances and interviews of music artists hosted by Bob Harris). 

With Nick, I watched hours of 1970s rock TV. And Nick would be sharing all sorts of great personal stories about the people who were on the show. I had the idea of doing a show asking the people who were there – the artists. Before we could broadcast it we figured we’d get ten episodes together. 

Gary and I went through our address books and we managed to get ten mates who agreed to be on the show.  Back then, you had to go to a studio in London, you had to have a whole set up and everything like that. But then lockdown happened and suddenly the world went Zoom! You could have shit audio, and most important is that you could speak to anyone anywhere at any time. So we started before, but it was the lockdown that made us. How long have you guys been going?

NFAA TOM: David and I started off as The Bass Guitar Channel during lockdown three years ago (2020), and then we thought why the hell are we just talking to bass players? 

NFAA DAVID: Boring old farts! 

GP: Right! 

NFAA TOM: We were mutual fans of each other’s websites – David has the Bass Guitar Channel, and I host the website and video series Know Your Bass Player. Of course, even under the banner of Notes From An Artist – we do favor bassists. Our guests include Bill Wyman who has been on the show twice, we’ve had Ron Carter on a few times. Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Quite Riot), Gerry McAvoy from Rory Gallagher, Benny Rietveld from Santana and Miles Davis, Jim Fielder from Blood Sweat & Tears, Harvey Brooks (Bob Dylan, Miles Davis)…

We’ve actually shared quite a few guests with Rockonteurs – Richard Thompson, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Colin Blunstone (The Zombies), Steve Hackett (Genesis). David and I consider ourselves the American Rockonteurs – or Mockonteurs! 

NFAA DAVID: You’ve played with Johnny Marr, David Coverdale, Nick Mason…

NFAA TOM: Many times, when David and I listen to podcasts hosted by non-musicians, we feel this angst, frustration, and even homicidal rage because the interviewers haven’t lived the life of a musician…I feel that we do which are peer-to-peer interviews, are very special. 

NFAA DAVID: It’s very niche, but it can appeal to a broader audience. 

GP: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It all depends on how you do it. Gary and I love to geek out. But this is the thing that I learned from years of doing my stand-up show, and that is you can’t appeal to just bass players. Half the guys have brought their missus. And they don’t want to be there. So you’ve got to do it in a way that makes sense for people who don’t really know or even care.  

NFAA DAVID: One thing we learned very early on – it was the first time we had Ron Carter as a guest – we did not bring up Miles Davis. And you can understand that. He’s going strong in his 80s and five years of his life were with Miles. He’s done so many other things besides Miles…

 GP: That’s hip, that’s cool! That’s seventy-five years’ worth!

NFAA DAVID: …so forty minutes into the interview… in his head, he must be going ‘no Miles? No Miles?’ We ended up getting Miles stories that no one had gotten before. Same thing with Bill Wyman. We didn’t mention the Rolling Stones once!

NFAA TOM: We read in your book how you made your bones as a bass player. Bernard Edwards noted, “That kid has a vibe!” Robert Palmer called you “the kid with the riffs!”

GP: Make that the kid with the ‘riff’ I just had one riff! 

NFAA TOM: We’ve had some of your peers on the show such as bassists Lee Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Brown, “The Section”), and Rudy Sarzo, and they never intended to be studio musicians – they preferred being in bands. What about you?

GP: It wasn’t really a proper profession. You got into rock and roll and you were in a band. It didn’t really exist. There were names you saw on Steely Dan records as part of some sort of unattainable Olympus. I wanted to play with people whose music I loved. And if I could help them make music, that would be even better. 

I think I had it too easy for too long. Then I got to the wrong side of thirty and thought ‘What’s my manifesto?’ I’ve gone on and ticked off other boxes.

For me, the bass is like this poor dutiful loyal kind of wife, while I go off and have my affairs and run about town and then always come crawling back to her…

NFAA: Guy, you came to prominence in the 1980s – the decade dominated by electric bass! 

GP: It was the best decade to be a bass player! Absolutely! In the world I was in – which was the current cool music of its time – everything from Bryan Ferry to Scritti Politti or whatever in British music – it was no longer about guitar. Guitar was small. Guitar played polite minor 7th chords – unless you were Johnny Marr. In fact – guitar was Johnny Marr! 

It wasn’t David Gilmour or Jimmy Page. It was all about slapping. And also the bass seemed to be really responding well to technology. With instruments such as the Steinberger… 

NFAA TOM: Your contemporaries were Pino Palladino, Paul Denman from Sadem, Norman Watt-Roy, Darryl Jones…Neil Jason 

GP: Don’t forget Tony Levin!

NFAA TOM: Yes, you shared many a gig with Levin. 

NFAA TOM: Talk about the influence of Mark King of Level 42 with his slap style on British players. 

GP: Oh God yeah, he was a hero. There is footage on YouTube of my first production rehearsals with Pink Floyd when I first started playing with them in 1987. I have no idea how someone could sneak around with a camera back then – they were so huge. We were in a 747 airplane maintenance hanger at Toronto Airport – and you can hear Gary Wallace and me playing ‘Love Games.’ That’s what we did.

NFAA TOM: And you had to hold the bass high on the body – like a bow tie! 

GP: Holding the bass that was a ‘New Romantic’ thing – which was done just to be as un-rock and roll as you could be. Literally holding the instrument under your chin…

When I look at that first Floyd tour – my bass is positioned a little higher than it is now.

NFAA TOM: Ergonomically – playing the bass too high is a problem – because you could tip over! Plus it’s a strain on your shoulders and upper arm.  As we age, we develop pot bellies, so we need to lower the bass. 

GP: It was quite funny with David (Gilmour) because he is much more svelte now… I would sneak to have a go on David’s guitar – I’d put it on and it would be down to my knees! 

NFAA DAVID: On the topic of bass positioning – what I learned Billy Sheehan was to sit down with your instrument in your lap– get comfortable, then stand up and take a simple piece of leather and measure – and that’s your position!

GP: Brilliant! That’s way too grown-up and sensible! 

NFAA DAVID: I could never understand Dee Dee Ramone playing with his bass near his ankles!

GP: But it looked fantastic! At the end of the day, are we musicians, or are we playing rock and roll?

NFAA TOM: There is actually an ergonomic reason why he did that. When you position your bass in the middle of your body – as most players do – you are using your forearm muscles. To play rapid eighth or sixteenth notes you need to use your wrist.  Hence if you position the bass low beneath the hip – you work your wrist muscles. 

GP: You’re absolutely right! Remember when the Boss Chorus came along and made everyone think they could play fretless? I am absolutely guilty of that! (Makes the sound of a chorus pedal) Rrrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrr. Rrrrrr. Is that an E or an F? Who knows there’s a lot of chorus on it!

NFAA DAVID: It does not matter! 

David C. Gross shows off his modified Tony Franklin fretless Fender bass aptly dubbed “The Franklin – Stein.” Gross had the instrument finished distressed, swapped out the Fender pick-ups for Lindy Fralin P-J configuration pups, and also replaced the Tony Franklin signature back plate. David notes that he shuts down the J bridge pick-up when playing the instrument. Gross notes that since he posted this bass on social media, Tony Franklin – a constant presence on Instagram and Facebook – has not spoken to him! 

GP: I’m personally baffled by Precision fretless basses. To me, the Jazz seems to be the obvious fretless model because it needs a ‘bite’ with a pickup near the bridge. The person who would disagree with me is David Gilmour – who is a very fine fretless player. I think he used a Charvel fretless on ‘Hey You’ (Pink Floyd The Wall 1979). 

NFAA DAVID: With me, it’s more comparable to my six-string as I prefer a big neck.  Particularly a P neck with a C shape is the right one for me. Tony certainly got the neck right!

GP: For the Saucerful tours I play basses I’m not familiar with! The one thing I do with that band is try to be authentic. There’s no point in trying to copy those parts – in a lot of instances you can’t even hear them since they were mixed low on the original records most of the time. From ’67 to ’70 Roger played a Rickenbacker then in ’70 he switched to the Fender Precision. So I play Rickenbackers and Precisions which are not my first choice. 

With the Precision I know it’s not the instrument – it’s me! Precisions are fabulous but it’s like certain Italian knitwear – I love it on other people! 

As for the Rickenbacker – I just can’t really play it. But they make me play great for this gig because I kind of need to have one hand tied behind my back. And I have to play with a pick – so there’s no danger of me getting funky anywhere! 

NFAA DAVID: I remember when Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles, 1967) first came out. Those photos of Paul with a Rickenbacker looked great! 

GP: Yes, it is a fantastic-looking instrument… but I never understood why it became a ‘prog rock’ bass with Chris Squire. Because it’s not a hi-fi-sounding instrument. 

Getting back to Precisions – I think it all comes down to ‘What was the first bass you picked up!’ The first bass I played was a jazz-style instrument…

Pratt proceeds to jump out of his skin and show off the instrument that began his life’s journey ‘My dad gave it to me …it’s a Grant Japanese model– it was sunburst – I can never figure out why the black color followed the contour of the neck – then when I shaved it down I discovered it was plywood!’ 

GP: It’s that jazz profile which is all I’ve ever wanted…  Then when I got Betsy – that his the most perfect profile neck I’ve ever come across. 

NFAA TOM: And that’s the profile on your signature Betsy Bass available at The Bass Centre 

Pratt hoists a Bass Center Betsy in his favorite hue – burgundy mist. 

GP: It’s the best-selling bass they’ve ever had! I used this Bass Centre bass at a cancer charity gig the other week (November 2023) with Andy Taylor and Robert Plant. So how’s this for a ‘box tick’ – I’m one of the few people, apart from John Paul Jones to have played “Black Dog” with Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant! 

NFAA TOM: The big I am! Let’s talk about Betsy – you added a Badass bridge…

GP: The Badass is an option… I use the cheap one! The secret to that bass is the EMG pickups. People don’t usually put EMG pickups into an old bass…it has the lovely, settled, resonant wood. Stick active EMGs into an old bass and…boom! It’s fantastic! 

NFAA TOM: David, you can compliment the burgundy mist Betsy bass with your signature neon pink strings!  

Pratt proudly displays the original Betsy bass guitar once owned by John Entwistle of The Who. 

GP: Here’s the old girl!

NFAA TOM: Is that the “My Generation” bass?

GP: No, John never played this bass. Owning a bass that belonged to John Entwistle is like owning a pair of shoes that belonged to Imelda Marcos!

NFAA DAVID: John owned a very conceivable bass in several colors.

GP: The rumor I heard was that Fender made three full sets of Burgundy Mist guitars in 1964. And John owned the full set- a Precision, Jazz, Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazz Master – he had everything. Which was priceless, but he had to sell them all in a hurry. So I purchased this bass through the legendary guitar tech Alan Rogan. 

The conversation drifts on to the punk era which Pratt experienced as an impressionable teenager. 

NFAA TOM: We didn’t get the Sex Pistols until late in their career and then of course, the band broke up in the USA following a show in Texas. That band must have had an impact on a young Guy Pratt. 

GP: Oh totally! If you discovered rock and roll at that point like I did, it made an impact. But the stuff I loved were the bands that survived. I loved The Who – Pete stayed totally cool throughout punk – no one was going to touch Pete! Twelve years before punk, Pete was smashing guitars on stage. No one was ever going to do anything as punk rock as that!

I liked Bruce Springsteen who became great friends with Joe Strummer. There was this thing that there were five bands – they were these people who were rich and over thirty years old, which we couldn’t relate to as teenagers. 

What was so brilliant about punk – and it’s the reason why the 1980s were so brilliant – was the ‘do it yourself’ aspect of punk. In England at the time the attitude was if you don’t like a band – start your own band. If you don’t like what is in the newspapers – start your own newspaper! 

When The Buzzcocks heard about the Sex Pistols they booked them to play at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. They played and there were about fourteen people at the show. And those fourteen people were Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Mick Hucknell, Tony Wilson, Steven Morris, Ian Curtis…basically the 1980s!

NFAA DAVID: I’m surprised that The Damned never broke in this country. They were another “fake” punk band that was brilliant.

GP: I know what you mean. They were like The Monkees of punk. And I say that as someone who adored The Monkees when I was a kid. 

NFAA TOM: Talking about your history of session work… when we are in the studio oft times we are required to either read a lead sheet or a written out note-for-note chart. According to your book, Madonna asked up to create a bassline that made your (anatomy deleted) hard!

GP: She was terrifying!  

NFAA TOM: In your book, you detail how you forgot that you played the iconic bassline to “Like A Prayer” which bolstered your career. 

GP: Right! I had a vague recollection of that session. It’s weird because I remember all the other stuff. I was bloody scared! I know I’ve played with Pink Floyd at this point, and other major artists but I still have this terrible imposter syndrome. I’m basically a West London punk rocker, I shouldn’t really be doing any of this! 

NFAA TOM: But you’re “the kid with the riffs!

GP: That’s “riff” again – singular! I only had one! I used it up a long time ago. 

It was a band session, and the players were amazing; Jonathan Moffat (drums), Bruce Gaitsch (guitar)¸ Jai Winding (keyboards), Patrick Leonard (keyboards), Bill Bottrell (engineer) – incredible.

And Madonna was so good – she was so ‘on it.’ She sang a guide vocal. She’d give me notes – and they were proper notes. They weren’t like ‘Can you make it more purple?’ She gave me understandable musical things that she wanted me to do. Or not do. 

“Like a Prayer” was just me, her, Pat and Bill. I don’t know why I was there. I was thinking because they have the synth on it – that’s all they’d need. There might not have been a plan to put a bass on it. I was in there to simply double some of the verse stuff. I was playing every fourth note or something. 

At the end, it was one of those ‘let go nuts’ takes. ‘We’ve got the take we need, let’s just do one more for fun.’ I don’t remember it because I wasn’t taking it seriously. As if I could do that!

Sometime later she invited me down to the mix – I’d come back to California to do the Toy Matinee album and I went down to the studio and she said (in Pratt’s impeccable Madonna Ciccone voice appropriation) ‘Come and sit next to me!’ 

There was this last really loud play through and I was absolutely stunned. It is an amazing song. The hooks, the arrangement, everything! On that track, there is always something to keep you interested. On that song, you’re always thinking … What now, what now?’ 

Then the bass thing happened at the end. ‘That sounds like me but it obviously isn’t…’ because that’s way above my pay grade! Pino gets to do that! Tony Levin gets to do that. Mark King gets to do that. 

Guy Pratt does not get to do that! Which is why I said to Madonna ‘That is the greatest record you’ve ever made… who played bass on it?’ 

(Pratt in Madonna mode) ‘You, dummy!!!!!’

NFAA DAVID: I think your Michael Jackson story is more bizarre. 

GP: The funniest thing about that story is when I got the call to do it. It was a period of my life that was so insane. I’d done the Toy Matinee record, and I had to leave before the end of making it to fly back to Europe to do a Pink Floyd tour – we went to Moscow and did that amazing gig in Venice. Then I had to fly straight back to Los Angeles to start the Robbie Robertson album (1987). While I was doing Robbie’s album – I did other songs for Madonna such as “Hanky Panky.” One day in the studio I get a call from engineer Bill Bottrell. 

“Hey Guy, what are you doing?” I responded ‘Well, I’m working with Robbie.’ Bottrell: “I want you to work on this Michael Jackson song…” I said ‘Okay.’ “Can you be here by six?” Pratt: ‘We don’t usually finish until 6… I’ll have to ask permission!’ 

So I went to Robbie ‘Listen, is there any chance I can go early tonight?’  Robertson: “Oh why?” Pratt: ‘I’ve been asked to do a Michael Jackson session!’ And Robbie blurted out “What am I supposed to say to that!” 

Pratt to Bottrell: ‘Why me Bill?” 

Bottrell: “Michael heard ‘Like A Prayer’ and he wants that!” 

So I thought ‘Great, he obviously wants full balls-out Octave pedal madness! 

I turned up at the studio and Michael had supposedly just left. And they play the track (Pratt sings) ‘What about sunlight…’ And I think to myself ‘Really!? What the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ 

Luckily Steve Ferrone came in. However was in the worst possible key – Ab! With an Octave pedal that is not good. As a rule, you don’t go below D. In fact, D is the optimum key. Now with modern technology, you can do anything, though I don’t like any of the new Octave pedals unless I’m doing a sub-swell. 

For me, it was the Boss OC-2.  Boss was actually talking about doing a Guy Pratt edition of the pedal. 

NFAA DAVID: Take that Pino! 

GP: Yeah! Look I nicked it from him – I make no bones about it. “Tear Your Playhouse Down” and “Give Blood” are the best examples of Pino with the OC -2. 

NFAA TOM: When I first heard those tracks, I had no idea they were pedals.

GP: Right because at the time there was no internet. When I first heard “Tear Your Playhouse Down,” I thought ‘it sounds like a synth but it obviously isn’t… but how did I find out it was an Octave pedal? Who do I ask? I didn’t know Pino!’ 

Do I go up to people and (yell) ‘Tell me tell me’ and leave a trail of bodies all over London?  But I did find out…

NFAA TOM: Guy as you are an album artist primarily, we ask all of our guests who work in that format the question “Is the album format still relevant in the age of streaming music?” What say you?

GP: No they are not. Albums were the length they were because Deutsche Grammophon worked out that it was the length of one movement of a symphony. Since that was the format, that’s what record players were made to. So we got used to the album format. Which then became this completely invented format where track listing was everything. From track one on side one, to track one on side two…what is the last track on side two? 

Basically, it became a play in two acts. Then the compact disc came along, and that concept was gone. There is no end of side one…there is no end of side two… 

Any sort of restriction that is imposed upon you – especially as an artist, is a good thing. That’s why plays are like plays, and films are like films.

It’s good to have these invented laws. Now, there is kind of no point! If you want an album to be 400 songs, it can. That’s why I find it interesting – that amongst a lot of the kids – their preferred format is the EP. Four songs. It’s not the tradition of ‘extended play.’ It’s four songs. 

Back in the day, EPs were when artists argued about what was going to be the B side! 

NFAA TOM: Or make an extra dollar off additional songs… 

GP: Right. 

NFAA TOM: Interesting that you mention the term “restriction” because David and I interviewed legendary bassist Jerry Jemmott and asked him that had Jaco Pastorius lived would he have moved on to the extended range bass – five-string, six-string. David and I were convinced that Jaco would have added more strings, yet Jemmott maintains that it is the restrictions of the four-string that made Jaco great.

GP: I don’t think Jaco would have played a six-string. 

NFAA DAVID: When you play an extended range – five or six – and I know you’ve tried that – your left hand tends to move horizontally rather vertically. 

GP: Yes, that’s what Jack Bruce said – and he preferred five-string. But when you think about it the top note on a Jazz bass…

NFAA DAVID: An Eb!

GP: Yes and it’s a note I actually use in a chord at the end of the song “Saucerful of Secrets” with Nick Mason. The point being, that note, why would you need anything higher than that on a bass guitar?

NFAA DAVID: Well, the idea to me was never doing the ‘diarrhea of the hands’ soloing. My brother-in-law was Ian MacDonald – and when he left Foreigner, we started a band. He bought me a Chapman Stick. 

GP: Ah I was about to bring those up!

NFAA DAVID: I wanted to go low, not higher. 

GP: Yes, I get that. But with Jaco’s facility, I don’t think he would have gone there. I don’t think Hendrix would have gone beyond the Fender Stratocaster. Look at David Gilmour. No one has done more to expand the horizons of what a guitar can sound like, but it’s still the black Strat.  

To me, Jaco’s sound is still so space-aged, modern, and high-tech, and it was just him – what else was he going to do? He already had the future in his fingers!

NFAA DAVID: When it comes to Jaco – yes he was a great player, but it all comes down to his compositions. He was a brilliant composer. Just like Charles Mingus. A great bassist, no doubt. But when you think about Mingus, you think about his compositions. 

“Three Views of a Secret,” “Portrait of Tracy,” who, outside of Percy Jones, would have thought of it? 

NFAA TOM: According to Anthony Jackson, with whom David studied…the true bass guitar is a six-string. As we discussed this with another Anthony Jackson disciple, your colleague Dave Swift (Later…with Jools Holland). If you place the electric bass next to an electric guitar and an upright bass, clearly the electric bass is a member of the guitar family. Leo Fender, who focused on the marketing aspect of his business, made the bass four strings to appeal to upright players who were weary of hauling the cumbersome doghouse!

GP: I had a Fender six-string bass, but I thought of it more as a baritone guitar. Wasn’t it interesting in The Beatles Get Back film that they had one laying around the studio and that’s what John Lennon picks up to play bass tracks. 

NFAA DAVID: Jack Bruce was playing a Fender six-string with Cream! How did he do it?

GP: Right! So let’s go back to the Chapman Stick – which was everywhere in the 1980s. Alphonso Johnson, Tony Levin…and I was thinking ‘Oh my God I’m going to have to learn this thing…’ So I nearly bought one. And I thought I just did those four years in my bedroom; I don’t know if I could go back and do them again. Because that’s what it would take. Then I realized – especially Tony – that he’s only playing two strings on it! 

NFAA DAVID: That’s absolutely right! You know what made me decide to get rid of the Stick…aside from how many years it would take to master it? I didn’t want to stand up with the Goddamn thing stuck in my pants!

GP: Exactly! Years back Tony Levin told me that he transcribed Stravinsky’s “Firebird” for the Stick. And I thought ‘We’ll I was never gonna do that!’ 

NFAA TOM: What’s on Guy Pratt’s bucket list?

GP: The boxes keep getting ticked! There’s only one person I would really like to play with. But… it’s a total Catch-22. 

I would love, love, love to do something with Peter Gabriel. But if I do something with Peter Gabriel, that means Tony Levin isn’t doing it – and I always wanted to be kind of… Tony Levin! So I guess I don’t want to play with Peter Gabriel…

More Bass Player interviews are available in an upcoming book: Good Question! Notes From An Artist Interviews… by David C. Gross & Tom Semioli www.NotesFromAnArtist.com 

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Bass Videos

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro – April 2024

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Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024…

Brian Bromberg, Paying Tribute to Scott LaFaro, April 2024

Brian Bromberg is one heavy-hitting bass player and I am in awe of his talent as one of the few individuals who is equally proficient on electric and upright bass.

You might remember our conversation back in 2018 when he released his powerhouse Funk album. Brian’s “A Little Driving Music” album is a staple on all our road trips and his Jaco and Jimi Hendrix tribute albums are mind-blowing… and I could go on and on.

Now, Brian has taken on the arduous task of producing an album paying tribute to the late, great, Scott LaFaro. He teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero and Brian delivers a commanding performance on upright. The entire album is a masterpiece and a real treat to listen to track after track.

Join us as Brian shares the details behind this project and more.

Photo, Michel Bocandé

Visit Online

brianbromberg.net
FB @BrianBrombergBassist
YouTube

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Leland Sklar, Over Half a Century of Bass, March 2024

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Leland Sklar, Over Half a Century of Bass, March 2024

We all have enjoyed Leland Sklar’s Bass lines for over half a century.

You might remember that we had him on our cover back in 2017 and did an update when he launched his book “Everybody Loves Me” in 2020. It was exciting to hear that The Immediate Family had got back together in the studio to work on their own music in 2019 and are now up to two albums.

Just last December, Magnolia Pictures released a documentary titled “Immediate Family” where we got a behind-the-scenes look at the massive contributions Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, Ross Kunckle, Leland Sklar and Steve Postell have made in countless songs that are the very essence of our daily personal musical soundtracks. Seeing the astronomical roster of performers they have supported over many years is very eye-opening. It is a must-see for any music lover!

Now, I am thrilled to bring you a special chat with Leland Sklar where we go more in-depth into the bass side of his musical journey.

Photos: Header, Rob Shanahan – Cover Photo, Jay Gilbert/Chris Schmitt

Skin In the Game – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhbnzIrdjJ8 
from new album Skin In The Game

The Toughest Girl In Town – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVQLZIRfLjU 
from new album Skin In The Game

Fair Warning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DN18DYwLsU –
from the self-titled album The Immediate Family

Visit Online

www.immediatefamilyband.com/
www.facebook.com/TheImmedFamily
www.instagram.com/theimmedfamily/

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Bass Videos

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More – February 2024

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Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More, January 2024

Ricky Phillips, STYX Bass And More…

This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

I have always been a huge Styx fan. Their music kept me awake during countless nights studying and gave my imagination a place to escape when I had a moment to take a break. 

I had the immense opportunity to chat with STYX bassist Ricky Phillips for our August Cover in 2017 and follow his projects as time passed. Now, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with Ricky as he has been super-busy over the past six years. 

Join me as we take a deep dive into the band’s most recent album “Crash the Crown” and EP “The Same Stardust”. Ricky shares some insights into the herculean team effort behind the scenes and the musical process that keeps them ever so busy and how he has updated his sound. 

Without further ado… Here is Ricky Phillips!

Photo: Jason Powell

“Crash of the Crown” lyric video

“Reveries” lyric video

“Save Us From Ourselves” lyric video

“Sound the Alarm” lyric video

“Too Much Time On My Hands” Zoom video 2020

Visit online:

www.Styxworld.com
FB & IG @styxtheband

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