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John Patitucci Talks “Melodic Arpeggios” (his new ebook) and online lessons

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(originally published in JazzTimes)

GearHead: John Patitucci’s New ebook and Online Lessons

Technology beyond technique

John Patitucci, the first-call double bassist, bass guitar virtuoso and current member of Wayne Shorter’s critically acclaimed quartet, draws from a wide variety of teaching experiences in Melodic Arpeggios and Triad Combining for Bass, a recent Kindle eBook published by David Gage String Instruments, the renowned New York bass shop.

The book, aimed at double bassists and bass guitarists alike, is being released in multiple instalments. Episode One offers six chapters, with exercises ranging from moderately easy to challenging; the lessons open with a focus on intonation and single-string shifting before moving to arpeggios and closing with a major arpeggio etude based on a theme by Bottesini. The project is something of a sequel to Patitucci’s book 60 Melodic Etudes.

“I felt like it would be good to do a book that would show the directions I’ve been going as a teacher and as a player,” Patitucci said recently from Atlanta, where he was playing sessions for a recording by pianist and composer Ted Howe. “A lot of books offer exercises in a very rudimental, up-and-down technical way. I wanted to develop a book using arpeggios in a very melodic way. Instead of just sounding like you’re running scales, you have the melody that arpeggios can bring. That has been influenced by Wayne—his stuff sounds like these combinations of sounds and arpeggios. There is obviously some chromaticism and scales mixed in, but the lyricism from the way he combines arpeggios is quite astounding. Obviously it’s a little harder to get around on the bass, but it’s a worthy challenge.”

Episode One also includes an emphasis on hearing and understanding intervals. “That helps with ear training,” the bassist said. “Using your ear to identify what intervals are coming at you is a powerful thing.”

The Kindle project isn’t Patitucci’s first foray into new media. Last year, he launched an interactive bass school through ArtistWorks; the online program has Patitucci provide video tutorials and written materials to students all over the globe, and give commentary on students’ work. “It takes kids from, ‘This is how you stand and hold it,’ all the way through grooving and tradition and jazz playing and information about Brazilian and Afro-Cuban stuff,” he said. “There are hundreds of lessons there, and basically a bass book of downloadable stuff you can get.”

The end game, Patitucci explained, is always to lead players in the direction of freedom, achieving technical mastery and accomplishing high-level “hearing” in order to free themselves up to more fully play in the moment, to connect directly with the music and fellow musicians: “If you’re struggling technically, it gets in the way of your rhythm and everything else. It’s all really about tools that will help you play more musically and expressively, with more richness, no matter what style. It’s to help you be freed up on the instrument no matter what music you play on the bass, to get around freely.

The Brooklyn native, 53, who spent his teenage years in Northern California and later lived in Los Angeles before returning to the New York area, has plenty more on his CV in terms of education. He recently began his second full year as an artist-in-residence at the Boston-based Berklee Global Jazz Institute, headed by his Shorter Quartet bandmate Danilo Pérez. A music professor at the City College of New York for a decade, Patitucci, who followed his hero Ron Carter into that position, earlier served as artistic director of the Bass Collective in New York. He has also worked with the Thelonious Monk Institute and Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program.

To some degree, Patitucci views today’s culture of formal jazz education as akin to an alternative mentorship. He thinks jazz degree programs might be the next-best substitute for the type of informal on-the-road training once more widely available to younger players.

“Schools are trying to pick up the slack,” he explained. “Nothing can replace being on a gig for years and going on the road and playing hundreds of gigs, but we’re trying to do our best to mentor and put students in performing situations and teach them history and practice and theory—and the practicality of it.”

Give the Bass Player Some: Ron Carter & Esperanza Spalding Top 77th Annual DownBeat Readers Poll

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Veteran bassist Ron Carter and young bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding, a Grammy-winning star, grabbed the top spots in this year’s DownBeat Readers Poll.

Carter, an enormously influential double bass master heard on thousands of jazz recordings, a successful solo artist but probably best known for his association with Miles Davis’s second great quintet in the ’60s, was ushered into the Hall of Fame, just beating blues legend B.B. King.

Spalding, a gifted vocalist, upright and electric bassist, and songwriter who has wowed audiences as a leader and as a member of Joe Lovano’s US FIVE band (#14 in the Jazz Group category), won in the categories of Jazz Artist and Jazz Album of the Year, the latter for her pop-infused “Radio Music Society.”

Interestingly, neither won in the two bass categories: Christian McBride won for (double) Bass, while Stanley Clarke, who rode Return to Forever to stardom, won for Electric Bass.

Wayne Shorter, Carter’s old colleague in that Miles band, won in two categories — Soprano Saxophone, and Composer

The more than 17,000 voters in the poll, somewhat surprisingly, honored the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the Jazz Group category, and Big Band honors went to the Maria Schneider Orchestra, whose leader also won for Arranger.

(Complete list of winners)

Other honorees:

  • Trumpet: Wynton Marsalis
  • Trombone: Trombone Shorty
  • Alto Saxophone: Kenny Garrett
  • Tenor Saxophone: Sonny Rollins
  • Baritone Saxophone: James Carter
  • Clarinet: Anat Cohen
  • Flute: Hubert Laws
  • Piano: Brad Mehldau
  • Keyboard: Herbie Hancock
  • Organ: Joey DeFrancesco
  • Guitar: Pat Metheny
  •  Violin: Regina Carter
  • Drums: Jack DeJohnette
  • Vibes: Gary Burton
  • Percussion: Airto Moreira
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Toots Thielemans
  • Female Vocalist: Diana Krall
  • Record label: Blue Note
  • Blues Artist or Group: B.B. King
  • Blues Album: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton, “Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center”
  • Beyond Artist or Group: Robert Glasper
  • Beyond Album: Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio”

For more on the poll, including interviews with the winners, get the mag’s December issue or click here.

Christian McBride Trio at the Mahaffey Theater (Concert review)

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(Recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)

(photos by Bridge Burke)

What kind of double bass tone does Christian McBride pursue? It’s the sound of chopping wood, as the then-young bassist described it to me for an interview at the dawn of his career as a solo artist.

Two decades later, McBride, justifiably the most recorded and most honored jazz bassist of his generation, still boasts that appealing sound on upright, a voice heavily influenced by Ray Brown and Ron Carter but now uniquely identifiable as his own. His beefy, earthy tone, often jaw-dropping technical abilities, and skills as an improviser, composer and bandleader were well displayed during a Nov. 2 concert at the comfortable, well-appointed Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

Christian McBride, backstage at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival

McBride was joined by a pair of strikingly talented young musicians, pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., for two impressive sets’ worth of standards and original compositions. Sands, 23, throughout displayed astonishing chops that were sometimes reminiscent of the likes of Oscar Peterson, and he also showed a lighter, more genteel touch, in the vein of the late Billy Taylor, one of the New Haven, Conn., native’s early teachers. Owens, 29, originally from Jacksonville, Fla., demonstrated precise, intuitive trap set work, throwing unexpected accents and bomb drops into the mix, sometimes switching to brushes, and at one point playing barehanded.

Unlike some recent electric-jazz ventures, on which McBride has incorporated bass guitar and fretless bass, his new trio emphasizes acoustic bebop, hard bop and swing. Much of the evening’s music was drawn from McBride’s new CD, due early next year on the Mack Avenue label.

The trio offered standards and familiar pieces: “Monk’s “I Mean You,” featuring a furious opening unison riff and a trading-fours section; “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”; “My Favorite Things,” limned with cascading piano; Billy Taylor’s aptly titled “Easy Walker,” with Owens’ derring-do on brushes; “I Have Dreamed” (from the musical The King and I), on which McBride bowed the melody; and, on the encore, Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe.”

McBride, too, brought smartly turned originals, including laidback, starting-stopping opener “The Duhty Blues” and “I Guess I’ll Have to Forget,” a ballad (originally recorded for his 2000 Sci-Fi album) on which his solo started slowly, in a melodic, folkish, vein before speeding up for a bluesy feel. The trio also offered a nod to funk and R&B, near the end of the show, courtesy of a version of Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” that also referenced Michael Jackson’s “Gonna Be Starting Something” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

McBride, of course, was the show’s star, alternating robust walking grooves with speedy runs, chords, slides and plucked harmonics clusters, and taking time for friendly chats with the enthusiastic audience. He never disappoints, and his latest band, like its predecessors, is worth seeking out.

Marcus Miller, “Renaissance” (CD review)

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(recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)

Marcus Miller, “Renaissance” (Concord Jazz)

Fastest, most melodic thumb in jazz-funk or not—and on many days, he deserves that title—bassist-producer-composer Marcus Miller wields that digit in a manner that’s impossible to ignore. He does that instantly identifiable thing he does with great panache and high musicality from the get-go on Renaissance, his first studio recording since 2008’s Marcus.

Title aside, Miller’s latest is more about the new old-school than the new new-school. That is, he nods to the ’70s, starting with the deep funk of “Detroit,” a bass-out-front piece that often has the leader playing in unison with guitarist Adam Agati and two horn players, alto saxophonist Alex Han and trumpeter Maurice Brown. The music of the aforementioned decade is also alive on “CEE-TEE-EYE,” a partial homage to the jazz-rock crossover of Creed Taylor’s CTI label; a lively take on War’s “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” bolstered by the percussion of Ramon Yslas, Kris Bowers’ creatively rambling piano and snatches of reggae anthem “Get Up, Stand Up”; and the album closer, an unaccompanied version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”

While hardly a variety show, the disc handily shows off Miller’s agility, as he skates from the bottom-thrusting “Redemption,” with keys/horn lines reminiscent of Joe Zawinul, to “Setembro (Brazilian Wedding Song),” featuring rubbery fretless bass à la Jaco, breathy vocals courtesy of Gretchen Parlato and Rubén Blades, and a rhythmic riff hinting at “Manteca.” “February,” featuring an extended solo by Han, is one of Miller’s most affecting ballads, while he amps up the hard rock, led by guitarist Adam Rogers, on “Jekyll & Hyde,” and uses his bass clarinet to lead “Gorée (Go-ray),” a tender-to-raucous piece inspired by a visit to the titular island, once a departure point for Africans forced into slavery. Dr. John even stops by for the bumping and thumping “Tightrope.” Nice catch.

Written by philipb1961

November 5, 2012 at 8:15 am

Tampa Jazz Notes: Christian McBride Rules at the Mahaffey; Ybor Jazz Fest Continues; Rickie Lee Jones Cancelled

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Christian McBride
, easily the most recorded and most honored jazz bassist of his generation, brought his trio to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg  Saturday night for two impressive sets’ worth of standards and original compositions.

Much of the music was taken from McBride’s new CD, due early next year on the Mack Avenue label.  It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that the group, with McBride (Mahaffey photo by Bridge Burke) joined by monster young pianist Christian Sands and similarly talented drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (photo by Bridge Burke), played the hell out of the material.

Unlike some of his recent ventures, McBride’s current trio is focused on the acoustic bebop, hard bop and swing side of jazz, with a nod to funk and R&B only coming only at the end of the show, courtesy of a version of Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” that also referenced Michael Jackson’s “Gonna Be Starting Something” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Sands, 23, throughout displayed astonishing chops that were sometimes reminiscent of the likes of Oscar Peterson, and he also showed a lighter, more genteel touch, in the vein of the late Billy Taylor, one of the New Haven, Conn. native’s early teachers. Owens demonstrated precise, intuitive playing, throwing unexpected accents and bomb drops into the mix, and sometimes switching to brushes.

McBride, of course, was the show’s star, turning in jaw-dropping runs, chords, slides and harmonic plucks, and offering beefy tone and walking grooves that were heavily influenced by Ray Brown and Ron Carter, while still distinctly his own.

The trio offered standards and familiar pieces — “Monk’s “I Mean You,” “My Favorite Things,” Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe” — as well as McBride’s smartly turned originals.

Nice seeing McBride back in the Tampa Bay area so quickly, after bringing his “Kind of Brown” quintet to last year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday; before that, he was last here with Pat Metheny‘s Trio, with drummer Antonio Sanchez, at the Tampa Theatre. McBride more than once told the audience how much he felt at home. So maybe he’ll make it an annual tradition?

(I’m writing a more detailed review of the fest for a jazz mag; I’ll link to it in this space when it’s published)

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If the Mahaffey audience felt like a hometown crowd to McBride, maybe that owed in part to the number of locally based jazz musicians and jazz aficionados in attendance for what felt like a must-see on this year’s jazz calendar. We ran into pianists Kenny Drew, Jr. and Stan Hunter, drummers Ian Goodman, Mark Feinman and Steve Bucholtz (my old rhythm-section mate from the University of Florida jazz band), and bassist Alejandro Arenas, as well as Bob Seymour, the longtime jazz director for WUSF, 89.7 FM. Several musicians, and students, had a chance to attend a Q&A with McBride during sound check on Saturday afternoon.

That “just like home” feeling probably stemmed, too, from the fact that some McBride family members were in the audience, including a cousin, Faith Walston. McBride took a few minutes to give a shout-out to Walston’s recent book, “All Paws In: Lessons Learned From Loving My Rescue Dogs.”

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Many of the above-mentioned locally based musicians are on the bill for the third annual Ybor Jazz Festival, which continues through Sunday at the HCC Performing Arts Building in Ybor City. Drew plays tonight, with Latin supergroup Guisando Caliente. Sunday, the trio Jazztek will be followed by Rayzilla’s Dreamboats. Admission is $15 daily. For more information, click here.

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As mentioned on my Facebook page, I was REALLY looking forward to hearing Rickie Lee Jones, next Sunday (Nov. 11) at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Jones’ voice, jazz-pop songs and arrangements and great bands first impressed me back in the summer of ’79, when Chuck E.’s in Love” was part of the soundtrack of my teenage life (and background for an early romance). She had me at hello.

Unfortunately, the show was suddenly cancelled this week. I’ve not made any official inquiries as to why it’s no longer happening. On a whim, I contacted Rickie Lee through her Twitter account, and this is what she wrote in response: “Cancelled by promoter and manager. Come to the other date n florida.”

She’s also playing Nov 7 in Little Torch Key, Nov. 9 in Ponte Vedra, and Nov. 10 in Orlando. For more info, visit her site.

Esperanza Spalding, “Radio Music Society” (CD review)

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(recently published in Relix; direct link)

Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society (Heads Up)

Esperanza Spalding follows up the Grammy winning Chamber Music Society with a rangier CD that ought to bring her to the attention of an even wider audience. Radio Music Society is probably too sophisticated to fit comfortably into any traditional radio format, although it touches on several, including mainstream jazz, R&B and funk.

The quiet, strings-enhanced balladry of “Cinnamon Tree” follows the bouncy “Radio Song,” laden with horns and vocal harmonies. Later, she connects with West African guitarist Lionel Loueke and the Savannah Children’s Choir for “Black Gold.”

She slips into Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” with sometimes boss Joe Lovano on tenor and taps Q-Tip for both “Crowned & Kissed” and “City of Roses,” which is a salute to her hometown of Portland, Ore.

Written by philipb1961

April 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Christian McBride Big Band, “That Good Feeling” (CD review)

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(recently reviewed for Jazz Times; direct link)

 Christian McBride Big Band, The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue Records)

Christian McBride, one of two high-profile veteran bassists making debuts as big-band leaders this season (along with Ron Carter), offers 11 of his arrangements, a mix of original compositions and standards. McBride’s career orchestrating for large ensembles, as he recounts in the liner notes, began a little more than 15 years ago with a commission from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. That piece, “Bluesin’ in Alphabet City,” is here, and it’s a charmer, a bluesy swinger with the trombone section’s melody answered by trumpet and saxophone rejoinders before opening up for solos, including a showcase for the leader’s speedy fingerboard flights and chopping-wood tone.

Bluesy swagger also marks “In a Hurry,” originally heard on McBride’s debut album and here building into a ferocious, criss-crossing bone battle between Michael Dease and James Burton. It’s topped off with the leader’s quick-witted bowed solo, a shouted chorus, and an extended, aptly explosive drum solo from Ulysses Owens Jr.

McBride turns in several more of his own tunes, originally played by smaller ensembles on his albums, including stomping opener “Shake ’N Blake,” with its unison melody shared between McBride and tenor saxophonist Ron Blake, and a conversational solo by trumpeter Nicholas Payton; the R&B-grooving “Brother Mister,” with solos by Payton and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson; the color-shifting “Science Fiction”; and “The Shade of the Cedar Tree,” a mellow McBride favorite.

When it comes to standards, there aren’t any letdowns. “Broadway” is all sweet swing, with a loose and likable McBride solo, while the slow-moving “When I Fall in Love” and “The More I See You” both benefit from singer Melissa Walker’s beautifully paced reading of the vintage lyrics. McBride takes the melody of “I Should Care,” which grants solo space to Payton and tenor saxophonist Loren Schoenberg.

Written by philipb1961

December 30, 2011 at 10:35 am

Ron Carter, “Ron Carter’s Great Big Band” (CD review)

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(recently reviewed for Jazz Times; direct link)

Ron Carter, Ron Carter’s Great Big Band (Sunnyside)

Given the thousands of recordings that Ron Carter has played on, it’s surprising that Ron Carter’s Great Big Band is the masterful bassist’s first session leading a large ensemble. Tapping the talents of prolific jazz and pop arranger Robert Freedman, pianist Mulgrew Miller, drummer Lewis Nash and a roomful of first-call hornmen, Carter turns in a 13-track program that makes a refreshing—not stuffy—jazz-history survey, with music dating all the way back to W.C. Handy. Underneath it all, Carter drives the tunes, including two of his own, with typically impeccable time, tone that’s woody and resonant, and adroit note choices.

The Latin-tinged pieces are among the standouts on the disc. A shimmering version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” opens and closes with a brass choir, and features a slipping-and-sliding Carter solo as well as dazzling, economical turns from Miller, trumpeter Greg Gisbert and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson. Jerry Dodgion’s bright, inquisitive soprano sax rides atop a version of Ellington’s “Caravan” characterized by a sneaky intro, staggered brass and some intriguing detours.

Freedman nods to the classic ’40s big-band sound on a couple of occasions, with an update of Sy Oliver’s “Opus One,” penned for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and here led off by bass trombonist Doug Purviance, and Tom Harrell’s retro-minded “Sail Away,” with relaxed solos by Miller, trombonist James Burton III, Carter and tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. The band also ventures into hard bop, with a fiery take on Sonny Stitt’s “The Eternal Triangle”; cool-jazz climes, with Gerry Mulligan’s tuneful “Line for Lyons” and John Lewis’ “The Golden Striker”; and soul jazz, with a grooving take on Nat Adderley’s “Sweet Emma.” Carter even offers a pleasant return trip to Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” which the bassist, 74, helped make famous as part of Miles’ Second Great Quintet.

Various Artists, “The New Universe Music Festival 2010″ (CD review)

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(Recently reviewed for Jazz Times; direct link)

Cd_thenewuniverse_span3
Various Artists, The New Universe Music Festival 2010 (Abstract Logix)

It must have felt like fusion heaven last November, when the sometimes maligned music’s big names and relative newcomers gathered for two days of performances in Raleigh, N.C. Fourteen tunes by seven of the acts, variously blending jazz, rock, world music and jam-band strains, are heard on The New Universe Music Festival 2010. Yes, direct and indirect references to fusion’s old-school—Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report—are abundant here. But those long susceptible to the myriad pleasures of the genre won’t be disappointed, and first-timers may become converts via the intensity, high energy, creativity and displays of instrumental virtuosity contained on this two-CD set.

Several genuine fusion stars are on hand. John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension, with bassist Etienne M’Bappe, drummer Mark Mondesir and keyboardist/second drummer Gary Husband, serves up the speed riffing of “Recovery” and hooks up with the guitarist’s old Shakti partner, tabla legend Zakir Hussain, for the stretching, pulsating “Mother Tongues.” RTF drummer Lenny White leads a quintet with guitarist Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, the Dead, Allman Brothers) on the blues-tinted “Door #3” and Joe Henderson’s tricky-riffing “Gazelle.”

Herring and a Project Z bandmate, drummer Jeff Sipe, head a quartet with bassist Neil Fountain and keyboardist Matt Slocum on the alternately meditative and rowdy “Rainbow,” moody ballad “Gray Day” and a pleasantly trippy, sliding and bending stroll through George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You.” There’s more mixing and matching throughout, as Sipe and Fountain team with guitarist Alex Machacek for the candy-colored lines of “Strafe” and the initially meditative “Very Sad.” Guitarist Wayne Krantz is heard in two bands, both with monster bassists: Matthew Garrison on “Vignesh” and “Origin” and Anthony Jackson on “Why.” And Garrison and Joe Zawinul-loving keyboardist Scott Kinsey also put in multiple appearances. Fusion lives.

Written by philipb1961

October 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Michael Formanek in Bass Player Magazine

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I recently interviewed Michael Formanek for a short feature published in the December issue of Bass Player.

Go directly to the piece by clicking here, or read the full text below:

bp1310_bn_MF5_nr.jpg

MICHAEL FORMANEK ALTERNATES between open-ended group improvisations and more structured passages on The Rub and Spare Change, his first album as a leader in 12 years. A jazz faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Formanek has provided steady groove making and inventive soloing for a rangy mix of artists, from a teenage stint with Tony Williams Lifetime to gigs and recording sessions with the Mingus Big Band and late jazz masters Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, and Joe Henderson.

You’ve played fusion, big band, bebop, improvised music, and more. Do you feel most at home in one of those genres, or do you see it all as a continuum?

It’s a continuum. Maybe improvised music is the one for me, because I feel like I can go into any of those other zones. Some people think of improvised music as not referencing other styles or grooves, but I don’t like those kinds of limitations. I’m absolutely thrilled to go there, find a groove, and not shy away or from something because it references something else.

What’s the state of the improvised music scene?

It’s maturing in a lot of ways. Greater numbers of young musicians going to school—or otherwise getting traditional jazz educations—are looking to bring more free, non-structured improvisation into their music.

Which players have had the deepest impact on your work?

Different guys at different times—Paul Chambers, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Sam Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Israel Crosby, and Ron Carter. But Charles Mingus stands out just because of the breadth of his contributions. As a player and composer, I always loved the sound of his bass, the depth of his personal expression, and the way he wrote extended compositions. I’ve never been wild about his methods for dealing with people as a bandleader, but I’ve admired his attempts to get players to make the music their own and his focus on collective improvisation.

HEAR HIM ON

Michael Formanek, The Rub and Spare Change [ECM, 2010]

GEAR

Bass u-size French Mirecourt school double bass, circa 1860
Strings Velvet Blue
Bow German-style Pfreschner bow
Rig Aguilar AG 500SC head with GS 112 cab

Written by philipb1961

January 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

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