Canadian Musician

JAY WALKING

Jason Raso

GEAR!

December 17th, 2014

 

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Mike Ippersiel at Bass Guitar Rocks designed this super cool diagram of my current bass rig! If you are interested in your own diagram contact Mike through his website!

Here is video rundown of my rig…

What does your current rig look like?

 

Thank you Stevie Wonder

November 26th, 2014

Growing up in the 80’s I obviously knew who Stevie Wonder was. Songs like “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and “Part Time Lover” were big hits. I knew he was a big deal, but I didn’t really know how big. In the 90’s I had a part time job at the mall, which basically supported my music buying habit. During that time I was probably HMV’s best customer! One of my purchases was a Motown box set. I remembered my Dad listening to Motown stuff and I thought I should check it out. Of all the artists included Stevie jumped out the most to me. His songs were so good. I needed to hear more. Within a month or two I bought every album. First was “Talking Book”, then “Innervisions,” and then “Songs In the Key of Life.” I just loved (and still love) these albums so much. Hearing Stevie (and a mind blowing band) perform the entire “Key of Life” album last night (ACC, Toronto) was truly amazing. I feel honoured to have been there.

Feeling inspired, this morning’s practice was based on some changes from “As.” Thank you Stevie!

 

Stanley Clarke: Living Legend

October 13th, 2014

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Stanley Clarke is a living legend. He is one of the most celebrated acoustic and electric bass players in the world. He is a four-time Grammy Award winner, a prolific composer, and a jazz pioneer.

I had the honour of speaking with Stanley ahead of his performance in Buffalo on October 17th. He is currently touring in support of his new release UP (Mack Avenue.)

JR: First, I have to get this out of the way. You are one of my all-time heroes. Thank you so much for all the music and inspiration over the years.

SC: Thank you. I appreciate that. There’s a little more coming. (Laughs)

JR: By the sounds of it, there’s a lot coming. I was able to check out UP last night. Man, it’s so good. Congratulations on the new album.

SC: Thank you. We had a lot of fun. This album was kind of a friend’s album. I have a lot of my close friends on this album. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s the music that’s best or the stories.

JR: It sounds like you were having a blast. Was it as much fun as it sounds like it was?

SC: Yeah, it was great. A label called Mack Avenue contacted me and said they wanted to make a couple of records. I wasn’t actually aware there were people hunting out instrumental musicians anymore. I said great! I was hanging out with my old buddy Stewart Copeland. We go way back to the mid ‘70’s. He said, “let’s go into the studio and do a couple of tracks, just bass and drums.” He really likes just playing with a bass player. We went in and had some fun. We went to a studio called The Village out here in L.A. and laid down some stuff. I was just noting how positive Stewart is. Stewart is one of those musicians who are always up. That’s just the kind of guy he is. That word just stuck with me. The tune that we played I titled UP. We just figured let’s call the album UP and everything followed after that. We had a good time making the album.

JR: I wanted to ask you specifically about Bass Folk Song #13: Mingus. When I think of composing bass player bandleaders Charles Mingus and Stanley Clarke are the two names that jump to mind. How much of an influence has Mingus been?

SC: Mingus was an influence, not just musically, but his psychology, his approach, his philosophy towards music and being a bass player in particular. He was one of the real strong leaders. He was a bona fide leader. In general, it was rare to see a bass player leading a band. It was a little more obvious to an audience to see that leadership in a guy who played trumpet or guitar or a singer. I believe drums might even be easier than bass. Mingus was a great musician and leader and a very strong intense individual. We had a couple of dinners together when I was very young. He heard about me and said, “I want to meet this kid!” I had dinner with him and he scared the hell out of me. It was like I was standing in front of a general of a South American rebel group. He was a real force of nature and the bass is just what he used. Those meetings with Mingus changed my life. It just made it more crystal in my universe, so what if you’re a bass player. If you have something you’ve written, something you want to promote or something to teach, it’s great!

JR: You don’t seem to be burdened by the past. How do you manage to maintain the balance between tradition and moving forward?

SC: Well, because I have an understanding of tradition which comes from playing with the old jazz greats I played with like Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and the time I spent with Miles Davis. I didn’t play or make records with him but myself and Lenny White used to spend time at his house. I learned at a very young age that tradition is not something pinned down to a time. Tradition is always gonna be something that’s considered by someone in the future. Me and you could be doing something now that fifty years from now someone will consider tradition. Knowing that, I don’t really get pinned down on anything. There’s a song on the record called Tradition, a bass solo piece. The changes are jazz changes, but played on electric bass alone. That’s a tradition for me. Tradition moves forward.

JR: I wanted to ask you about the tour. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Buffalo on October 17th. What can you tell us about the live band and set list?

SC: Well, the live band is great, young guys that have been with me for a while. I’m going out with a drummer and two keyboardists. We’re going to have notable players from each city sitting in with us. We’re doing four things from the new album. We’re trying to get in as much as possible.

JR: What led you to recording School Days for UP?

SC: There are a couple of stories with that piece. One is that I was fortunate enough to make an album that some people would even call a classic. I had a few guys ask, “why would you re-do a classic?” I understand the thinking. I can’t imagine Led Zeppelin doing one of their classics again, but with jazz musicians, we tend to re-do our songs. I know School Days means a lot to people but I really like the song and don’t think I should NOT play it or record it. It’s a real guitar and bass song. I’ve had some famous guitar players say “I’d love to record School Days with you!” Jimmy Herring was one of them. He’s one of the classic southern rock guitar players and he’s progressive too. I did that for him. I knew he would kick butt and it’s beautiful. Gerry Brown was the original drummer. It was so funny, the first four bars sound so much like the original. Gerry and I were listening and saying “goddamn” maybe we should change something.

JR: When you made School Days, the tune and the album, did you know it would be a game changer?

SC: No, I didn’t know. That tune was written at a moment of tremendous excitement. I don’t think I’ve told too many people this story. I was watching the Grammy’s and I wasn’t aware of what they were at the time. Return to Forever had a song that was up for some category. I remember Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme said, “The winner for best instrumental performance is Return to Forever featuring Chuck Corea.” Ella leans over and says, “ “no, that’s Chick, not Chuck.” My wife said, “Man you guys won a Grammy!” I said, “Is that big?” “Well it’s on TV!” I said, “I guess so!” At that moment I got really happy and wrote the A and B section in about five minutes. That song changed my life and I guess other bass players too.

JR: Thank you so much for making time for me today, Stanley. I really appreciate it.

SC: Ok man, you take care and I’ll see you in Buffalo.

Stanley Clarke performs at The Tralf Music Hall in Buffalo, NY on Friday October 17th, 2014. www.stanleyclarke.com

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Photo by Steven Parke.

Making the Move to Six String

October 1st, 2014

After 25 years of primarily playing a four string bass I made the move to a six string. A gorgeous F Bass I introduced to you in my last post. Getting used to the six string has been an adjustment to say the least. Here is an interview I did with Mike Ippersiel at Bass Guitar Rocks talking about the switch…

 

 

F Bass: A Love Story

September 12th, 2014

Recently, I made the switch to a six string bass. Honestly, I never thought it would happen. It turns out I just had to meet the right bass. That bass turned out to be an amazing F Bass BN6. Her name is Vivian and here is our story…

My Practice Renaissance

August 4th, 2014

I have always enjoyed practicing. I love the process. I know I need to put the time in. I don’t mind the repetition because I know the work will pay off. I have been pretty consistent with my practice over the years, but when I was in my late teens I was totally obsessed, playing 7 or 8 hours a day. Everything seemed new and fresh and I couldn’t wait to play each day. Over the years I have settled into practicing 1 or 2 hours per day. However, over the last 3 or 4 months I have experienced a sort of practice renaissance. I feel like I did in my teens. I have been practicing 3 or 4 hours per day and can’t seem to get enough. There are many reasons for this. I have been working through Tony Grey‘s Bass Academy book (lots of great ideas to try), working on solo material for my new album, and working on some Charles Mingus material.

Another big reason is Alain Caron, the great bassist from Montreal. I’m very honoured to have Alain as a guest artist on my upcoming album. His track turned out great. I was so happy and inspired when I heard it. He has been a hero of mine for a long time and to hear him play a song I wrote was absolutely amazing. So, I dug out my old Alain Caron columns from various bass magazines and got to work.

 

Over the next few posts I thought I would share some of the things I have been working on. Here’s one…

Lesson – Targeting 3rds (video)

This is a chord progression from my tune “Dream City.” As a bass player I am used to targeting root notes. When I’m soloing I have a tendency to target 5ths. I have been trying to break that habit. In this case I am trying to target 3rds.

Here are the chords (the target is in bold)

Fm7 – F Ab C Eb

Abm7 – Ab Cb Eb Gb

Bmaj7 – B D# F# A#

Amaj7 – A C# E G#

Bbm7 – Bb Db F Ab

Am7 – A C E G

Dbmaj7 – Db F Ab C

C7 – C E G Bb

 

Brad Cheeseman!

July 14th, 2014

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One of my primary goals for Jay Walking is to feature Canadian bass players. Well, this week we have a dandy! I have a real soft spot for Canadian bass players who lead their own bands! Toronto’s Brad Cheeseman is a bass player on the rise with Brad Cheeseman Group and the Brownman Electryc Trio.

 

JR: When did you start playing bass and who were your early influences?

BC: I’ve been playing music for most of my life but didn’t start playing bass until I was 16. After playing guitar in a few high school bands, I decided to pick up a cheap 4-string and switch instruments for one project… I’ve been playing ever since! Some of my biggest influences early on were progressive rock bassists like Geddy Lee and John Myung, as well as guys like Les Claypool and Flea. It wasn’t until several years later that I started getting into jazz and discovered a whole new world of great musicians that have influenced the path I’m on now, such as the wonderful Rich Brown.

JR: At what point do you feel you came into your own as a bass player?

BC: I think that, over the past few years, a sound has started to take shape that I would call my own. There was a moment a couple of years back when I was listening back to recordings from a gig and was surprised to hear that I sounded how I wanted to sound, rather than just a combination of the things that I was working on at the time. It takes time to synthesize your influences and practice routines into a singular voice so it’s reassuring to hear it come through as something definitively you. I don’t know if I’d say that I’ve really come into my own yet, but I’m gonna keep working towards it. As long as I can keep moving forward, I’m happy.

JR: What are some upcoming projects you are excited about?

BC: I’m looking forward to a bunch of festival dates this summer with several bands (including my own band, the Brad Cheeseman Group, and the Brownman Electryc Trio). There aren’t any particularly big projects in the works right now so I’m just hoping to play as much as I can and spend some time writing some new music. More info on where I’m playing can be found at www.bradcheeseman.com.

JR: Which non-bass player has had the biggest impact on your playing? 

BC: This is a tough one to narrow down. All of the musicians that I’ve played or studied with over the years have definitely helped (and continue to) shape who I am today. Beyond that, I would say that Robert Fripp was a big influence (especially early on) and there are an endless amount of great musicians that I listen to who keep inspiring me to be better. In general, I just try to keep my ears open because there’s a lot of good music out there with lots of things to teach us.

Scaling the Mountain

July 2nd, 2014

Over the last five years I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with amazing musicians, including my band mates Brent Rowan (saxophone), Adam Bowman (drums), and Thomas Hammerton (piano). I’ve also been fortunate to work with Ted Warren (drums), Joni NehRita (vocals), Brownman Ali (trumpet), Richard Underhill (saxophone), Tony Monaco (B3 organ), Francesco Pinetti (vibraphone), and most recently Alain Caron (bass), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), and Robi Botos (piano). Aside from being world-class musicians, they have other things in common. They are exceptionally kind and giving. It’s been an honour to share the stage and studio with them. Another thing they have in common is that they have all made me a better musician.

Playing with these fine musicians has made me a better player in every way – rhythm, harmony, improvisation, melody etc. I have learned so much hearing how they interpret the music. It has been a real education and I can’t thank them enough.

Recently, someone told me he thought it took “guts” for me to seek out these musicians. The truth is that there was a time, not so long ago, that I wouldn’t have dreamed of reaching out to musicians of that caliber. I know now that playing with musicians who are better than me is the best way for me to move forward. I’m no longer afraid to get my ass kicked on a gig or studio date. In fact, I look forward to the next time!

So, don’t be afraid to reach out to musicians who are higher up the mountain, they can help you reach the next plateau!

The Legendary Orin Isaacs

May 21st, 2014

One of the goals of Jay Walking is to feature prominent Canadian bass players. Well, this week we hit the jackpot with the legendary Orin Isaacs!

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Like many people, I first took notice of Orin from his time as bassist / bandleader on Open Mike with Mike Bullard. At that point I was already into other bassist / bandleaders like Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller, but to see someone doing it on TV every night was fantastic! (and in Canada no less!) Years later I heard some killer bass on Hockey Night in Canada and sure enough…it was Orin!

Orin was kind enough to take some time from his busy production schedule to answer a few questions…

 

JR: When did you start playing bass and who were your early influences?

OI: I started playing bass at around 11 years old, we started a neighbourhood band and bass was the last instrument to be chosen so that’s what I ended up playing. I had an old electric guitar so I just took 2 strings off and made a new bridge out of wood. I played that for a year until someone told me a bass was an octave lower.

My first personal influence was a guy named “Dred John” he was an amazing drummer that lived in our neighbourhood, he was maybe in his mid 20’s and we were just kids . He would take the time to come to our rehearsals and teach us about music especially reggae.

Then as I got older maybe 16 or so when I started to check out Jazz/Fusion. I didn’t like most of it but man I was all about Stanley Clarke!! He was the one that introduced me to bass as a solo instrument.

JR: At what point do you feel you came into your own as a bass player?

OI: I would say in my mid 20’s. When I was younger I was all about speed and flash but I don’t think I had much substance, as a solid musical bassist/musician. Ya I could play but I didn’t feel music they way I do now, back then I just wanted to out slap you and solo all day. I think that had more to do with me maturing as a person and it just translated to the bass. I would say between 25-35 were my best playing years in terms of overall musicianship. Funny, now at 45 if I pick up a bass I just want to lay it down if possible, I have no desire to even slap a bass or solo. (mainly because I’m so out of practice) I only really play once a year at the Canadian Screen Awards so I’m just trying not to mess up.

JR: Which non-bass player has had the biggest impact on your playing?

OI: I would say the keyboard players I’ve played with. David Williams, Tony Padalino, Mark Lalama are all great players in their own way, they have their own style. David passed away in 2010 but nobody was funkier.

I always study the musicians that are around me because if you learn what their approach is on their instrument you not only can learn what their doing, when you’re holding it down but you can ask questions and translate it to your instrument, in turn hopefully you become better and a more rounded musician. This has helped me tremendously when I transitioned into composing.

When it comes to playing a bass, I have one rule when I’m putting a band together for a TV gig. I must be the worst musician on the stage!! (and I’m still pretty good, by most standards) Here are the main 2 reasons…

Time is precious!! I can’t fire me, but I can fire you, so I’m the only one that can or should slow the band down. I rarely mess up so the musicians around me have to be that much better.

I want to learn!! I’m always learning and what better way to learn than from musicians that are better than me.

JR: What are some upcoming projects you are excited about?

OI: Hmmm…If we are talking about things that I’m involved in I would have to say that composing for TV is 98% of my output now so I’m always excited about the TV shows I do. Right now the big ones are:

Big Brother Canada, Never Ever Do This at Home, The Junos, Canada’s Walk of Fame, Canadian Screen Awards, Ice Road Truckers, Chopped Canada, Top Chef Canada, Amazing Race Canada, Match Game.

I sometimes miss playing the bass, it truly is my first love. As you get older your priorities can change so now I’m more excited about what else I can do musically and right now TV is it.

Guitar Workshop Plus!

May 6th, 2014

Oh boy, am I excited about July’s Guitar Workshop Plus in Toronto!

Session 1 will feature two of the world’s most respected bass players, Alain Caron and Dave LaRue. Do not miss an opportunity to learn from two of the best in the business!

Session 1 runs July 13th – 18th. Register today!

 

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