I recently had the opportunity to interview John Patitucci for a book I am writing. What an honour!
Here’s a snippet from the interview…
“I think sometimes people will get the wrong idea about me, they never heard all the millions of gigs and millions of obscure recordings I did which were really about laying it down and just being a fundamental bass player, never having soloed. I did a ton of stuff like that in L.A. and when I was in the Bay Area. I always joke with my students, man, I’ve played with everybody from revue shows to pony shows to Elvis impersonators to Mexican Cumbia bands at weddings, and all kinds of stuff. I didn’t start off playing with Chick Corea. I learned how to play. I paid my dues. I played in my brother’s band; we used to play parties in living rooms and all kinds of stuff. So the idea of being able to lay it down and really be a bass player and be compositional. It’s all about sound and your groove and your rhythm and your feeling and your kind of way you put together a bass line that unlocks a tune. You know, people say that, well, you give it a lot of lip service, but I’ve spent my career with that as a priority. And that is what allowed me to get to do all this other stuff, which sometimes it’s not easy to see that: it’s like all you can see is, “well yeah, but you’ve got fourteen solo albums.” Yeah, but, you know how many decades I’ve been playing bass? You know, I mean, just bass. And a lot of times, people would hire me not because I can solo, but because I was a bass player that cared about their music, that wanted to play, and enjoy just playing the rhythm. That’s huge. Especially, again, with the YouTube thing, people post all this flashy stuff, and a lot of guys: I see guys on both instruments posting all kinds of crazy stuff. But it’s interesting: many of those guys, I’ve never seen them on a gig with a band. They’re just blowing or they’re playing along with a record and they’re blowing some incredible thing. But, you know, at least, let’s just say – let’s be generous. At least fifty percent of the time, you’re seeing people that you – when do you see them playing with a band, on a gig somewhere in the world? That’s dangerous.”
Just saw this post on one of the bass player groups…
“Many bass players nowadays are focusing on playing solo more and more, and less being BASS PLAYERS!
Here’s a perfect example of how a bass players should do the Job!”
While the video they posted was cool and and the bass player was awesome, my problem is with the word “should.” Why can’t we accept the fact that bass has evolved past the traditional role? Guitar players seem more accepting – you could have a rhythm guitar player, a lead guitar player, a classical guitar player etc. That doesn’t seem to bother people. But, man, if you are just a solo bass player, it bothers people!
I can’t think of many examples of B.B. King or Grant Green playing chords and it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think to myself “Grant Green SHOULD really learn some chords!” If I want to hear chords I’ll listen to someone else. I don’t listen to Jamerson and wonder why he’s not soloing. And I don’t listen to Manring and wonder why he’s not laying down more understated lines.
Why are bass players so focused on the “job”?
and why can’t your “job” be playing a solo piece?
I personally love playing bass lines in a band setting but I also love playing solo pieces! But if you only dig one of those things, that’s cool too! Maybe just be more accepting of how others choose to play!
One more thing: if you play bass, you’re a bass player! It has nothing to do with WHAT you play or HOW you play your bass!
Stuart Hamm is a bona fide bass hero! His work with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai cemented his reputation as a groundbreaking bassist. His solo career established him as one of the most recognizable voices in bass. It would be easy to focus on Hamm’s jaw dropping technical prowess but above all, Stuart is a brilliant composer and musician.
Stuart is bringing his talents to Canada this summer on two different tours.
Songs and Stories is a chance to see Hamm in a solo bass setting. He describes the show as “an entertaining musical journey! I play music and tell stories about my life in music, not just for bass geeks! My best performances have been in front of music lovers who did not know who I was and had no preconceptions. I guarantee you will be entertained, and hopefully inspired!”
The Stu Hamm Rock Experienceis an opportunity to catch Stu in a power trio setting. Stu says “this will very much be a rock band! I’m bringing a kick ass rock drummer named Jeff Bowders and a real Korean guitar sensation Kim SeHwang. We’ll be playing the greatest hits from my catalog and some surprise songs of my best known tracks from Vai and Satch. A very entertaining and rocking show!”
Catch him at one of the following dates…
June 9th – Ottawa – Brass Monkey (Songs and Stories)
June 10th – London – London Music Club (Songs and Stories)
July 4th – Toronto – Horseshoe Tavern (Stu Hamm Rock Experience)
Mr. Hamm was kind enough to answer a few questions before the tour started…
JR: When did you start playing and who were your early influences?
SH: I come from a family of musicians, so I grew up listening to and playing lots of different music. I got my first bass for Christmas in 1973 and played it as well as upright in my school’s Big Band, reading jazz charts and swinging. When I first heard “Roundabout” I went nuts! My early influences were McCartney, Squire and Entwistle. Then Stanley Clarke and Jeff Berlin. Then, on November 8th, 1978 I saw Weather Report, and of course, Jaco changed my life!
JR: At what point do you feel you came into your own as a player?
SH: As soon as I started playing bass I knew that I had found the instrument for me and knew what I would do with my life. It was a very exciting time for bass players, things were changing so quickly. When I was a kid, hardly anyone slapped or played chords and harmonics, and NOBODY tapped! So I was among the first of that era to put it all together.
JR: Which non-bass player has had the biggest impact on you as a musician?
SH: Glenn Gould without a doubt. A fine Canadian as well! I listen to Glenn everyday. Miles Davis and Claude Debussy and recently, Arvo Pärt as well, but G.G. is my muse.
Tony Levin is an absolute legend. His tone and creativity on the electric bass and Chapman stick are unmistakable. He has toured and recorded with the likes of Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Paul Simon, King Crimson and many more. His DISCOGRAPHY is mind boggling!
We are honoured that Tony took a few moments to chat with us before he heads to Canada for five shows with Stick Men this week…
Apr 27 Cafe Campus / Montreal, QE
Apr 28 Le Cercle / Quebec, QE
Apr 29 Mavericks / Ottawa, ON
Apr 30 Mod Club / Toronto, ON
May 1 Cork Hall Live / Kitchener, ON
Photo by Thierry Weber
JR: When did you start playing bass and who were your early influences?
TL: Started young – about 10 yrs old, having played the piano first. It was the ‘upright’ bass I played then, only switching to electric when I was in music school.
JR: At what point do you feel like you came into your own as a player?
TL: I don’t often look back at my career to decide things like that — like many musicians, I spend my time kind of buried in the music I’m doing at the moment, and don’t have much perspective on seeing it as a whole. I’d say that in the 70’s, when I was working as a studio musician, and had the chance to play with Peter Gabriel, both on record and on tour, that was when I began settling into the kind of music I wanted to be playing, and have continued playing since then (what I would call progressive rock.)
I still do a wide variety of music, though, and I’m always happy when I can lend a decent bass part to what’s going on musically.
JR: Which non-bass player has had the biggest impact on your playing?
TL: Many names on that list — I’m influenced by the drummers I’ve worked with (Steve Gadd, Bill Bruford for example) and the singers (Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, David Bowie) and, well all the excellent players and performers.
JR: We are excited that Stick Men are coming to Ontario – how would you describe the band?
TL: Stick Men is a pretty unique band – with two ‘touch guitar’ players… I play the Chapman Stick which has 12 strings, bass and guitar output, and Markus Reuter plays a touch guitar he designed himself, with 8 strings. So we can trade off bass parts, or both play both bass and guitar parts. Meanwhile Pat Mastelotto (like me a King Crimson member for many years) plays unique drum and percussion parts with loops, samples, and other …well, ‘progressive’ approaches to playing.
We play a lot of our own music, both new and from past albums, and we usually do some King Crimson pieces for the fans who come expecting to hear that. We also improvise a lot, and try to challenge ourselves with our music, while making it an enjoyable experience for the audience.
Times change. People want to hear AND SEE the music they enjoy. More than ever, they are interested in the creative process of the artists they support. It is this cultural shift that has motivated “The Satellite Sessions”. We asked: what would happen if we opened the curtains to the recording studio? What if we weren’t so precious about the result? What if we were more interested in capturing an honest performance rather than a perfect one? What if we used technology as a tool to further collaboration, connection and creativity? In the coming weeks, we will explore these questions using sound and image, collaborating as a duo and with guest artists both near and far. Where will we point the satellite next? Stay tuned!
I’ve heard some amazing bass players over the years. In fact, I’ve been fortunate to see most of my favourite players live. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of them, and even interview some of them!
These players have inspired me to be better and practice more. They’ve pushed me to dig deeper into the bass. They’ve angered me when I struggled to learn something. They’ve even made me cry!
But not one bass player has ever made me feel like putting my bass down and quitting!
Never be discouraged by someone who is further ahead. Just be inspired and keep pushing forward!!!