instrumental cover of Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression that opens the
CD retains a lot of the punch, looseness and sense of timbral discovery
that characterized the Are You Experienced? original version - a performance
from which Jack Vees quotes important details from Mitch Mitchell's
drum parts. Also extremely successful are the other featured covers:
I Want You (She's So Heavy), the John Lennon's classic from his Beatle
days, sounds extremely faithful and decidedly alien at the same time;
As You Said - the Jack Bruce track from Cream's Wheels Of Fire studio
LP that with its cello and acoustic guitars was in a way a preview
of his solo career - receives a respectful and appropriate treatment.
picture becomes richer and even more interesting after listening to
Jack's original compositions: the title-track in a way reminds me
of the "percussions & koto" timbres so typical of German
guitarist/luthier Hans Reichel, while John Henry pushes on the distortion
pedal, Monsieur Piñata testifies of creative and inventive
studio work, and the long Surf Music II explores bass harmonics via
"non-conventional" techniques inside a compositional framework
of great beauty and no less rigour.
Vees's background is very complex and multifaceted, as demonstrated
by his previous solo album, Surf Music Again (CRI 1996), from the
computerized piano of Piano Trio (Hulk Smash!) to the solo bass of
Surf Music Again to the sequencer/cello of Rocket Baby, where the
shadow of Robert Fripp briefly appears. But to me the most suggestive
piece is SPNFL, which makes wise use of tiny samples from Cream's
celebrated Wheels Of Fire live version of the Willie Dixon classic.
I've always been interested in all three as pieces of music. To me
they're not just tunes. Each of them takes the basic pop tune structure
and puts an interesting spin on it. I Want You (She's So Heavy) comes
close to having a verse/chorus structure, but the chorus ends up becoming
this huge other thing, an ostinato that completely subverts the idea
of verse/chorus tune structure. In the Jack Bruce piece, he is also
fooling around with what we might call the bridge or "B"
section of the tune (it's not really a bridge anyway). The slow ascending
melodic line starts from a different pitch each time.
In fact, each time it comes around, it starts from a lower note and
ends on a high one. I think that makes the ascent even more dramatic.
And as for the Hendrix, well he also finds a way of breaking up his
choruses - not with a bridge but with that halting chromatic line.
all three let me use the bass in ways that explore different facets
of it, as opposed to relying too much on gymnastic, riff oriented
that was a pretty simple one! I was just scratching the strings (all
four) with my fingernails and slowly opening and closing a wah wah
pedal. At the time of the recording I only had a wah wah made for
a regular electric guitar. So I had to use an odd EQ to bring out
the "wind". Now I have a pedal made for the bass guitar
so I don't have to fool with the tone settings as much. As far as
adding various layers to the piece - bass line, melody, arpeggios
- I mostly use a Digital Echoplex. I also have a JamMan that I'll
sort of relates to the overall reason of why I picked the three cover
I had played cello for a few years when I was an undergraduate. I
never got too serious with it, but I did learn the cello part on As
You Said. As I was putting material together for this CD I remembered
that I had used to play the melody, then realized if I retuned the
bass I could put in other parts.
those two questions are sort of related aren't they? I do like to
include technical information when there is enough space. I am more
concerned with how the piece sounds and how a listener experiences
it. One of the differences between live and CD though is that with
"live" a listener also gets other cues, visual for one,
as to how the sound is being produced. If someone just wants to listen
to a recording and not be concerned with how the sound got that way,
well that's fine with me. However, I also know that some people will
be curious, so I let them know some of the basics when I can.
regard to the bass CD, it was just a smaller booklet insert and we
decided to go with less text.
since you asked about Monsieur Piñata I actually put my bass
amp inside a grand piano! The engineer put two mics on the piano and
we ran them through a compressor. The sustain pedal is down on the
piano. When I played the compressor would squash the bass level down
to reasonable levels, then the quiet piano resonances would be brought
up when I wasn't playing. I've used this piano resonance technique
in a few pieces (see SPNFL).
think that it would be easy to play up the "street smarts"
component, but I think that especially in the U.S. too much is made
of the whole "noble savage" ideal. That's a Hollywood construct.
In my time in L.A., I didn't see many noble savages, but there were
certainly a lot of savage nobles around!
at the same time I was working on my master's degree I was playing
with some of the rawest off beat groups in L.A. Check out the Ugly
Janitors of America, which was John Trubee's brainchild, or the Free
Bass Ensemble, an all bass guitar group (usually 12 to 20!).
those "serious" composers also made me pause and think.
Andriessen took the minimalist aesthetic and knocked down some walls
to let it breathe.
incorporated tech elements in a very organic way. Then there was also
Vinko Globokar, who showed me a lot about underlying structure, and
how to incorporate visual/theatrical elements in a way that digs deep
and avoids triviality.
glad to have encountered all these composers. They each made me kick
it up a gear and confront the issue of music making on a higher level
than simple self expression.
nobles" i.e. the guys who run the music business who don't know
one iota about music, nor do they care to.
had been playing in what was then called the "avant garde jazz
ensemble" when I was in undergraduate school. The year before
I enrolled, Cecil Taylor had been the director. Although he was gone
by then, the new director, Joel Thome (who is known for conducting
some of Zappa's orchestral works) continued the group in a similar
vein. We were all encouraged to explore all of the potentials of our
instruments. This sort of ensemble always attracted lots of forward
thinking percussionists who would play their instruments in some very
non-standard ways. Some of that I adapted to the bass, others I just
stumbled across on my own. When I heard Jaco's first solo album I
realized that he had found a way to take certain of these techniques
- harmonics in particular - and utilize them in a more "inside"
tonal format. I started to assemble a list of all the possible combinations
that could be reached from any position along with footnotes for myself
about the best ways to strike the strings along with other pointers.
One day the guy who conducted the big band (Manny Albam, also a noted
jazz orchestrator) saw my notes and made an offhand comment that I
almost had a book. He suggested a couple of publishers and the second
one I contacted picked it up.
remember that it took a long time for them to put it out because (this
was in the days when everything was still engraved) they kept running
out of the little diamond signs for harmonics! Unfortunately though
still available if you can find it, it's out of print now.
mentioned before that I picked up a lot of ideas from watching percussionists.
Also, other composers I've worked with have pushed my practice, Joel
Thome and Eleanor Hovda, for instance. It seems that bowing a bass
isn't all that unusual, but when I first tried it on a bass guitar,
the body got in the way of course. One day I just started bowing it
way up by the nut and all these great upper partials came tumbling
out. I'm also intrigued by activating the strings with materials of
various hardnesses - everything from rubber to glass.
be very surprised if bass players would be all that interested in
it - especially for technical reasons. I never thought of it as a
"players" CD. Throughout a lot of it, it might not even
register that one is listening to a bass album. I'm really much more
interested in exploring the potential timbral palettes (that can include
aesthetical beauty) and creating pieces that have some sort of solid
formal (or aesthetical) foundation than trying to impress anyone with
technical ability. It's much more about applying just a little imagination
than what is normally given to an instrument that has so many more
possibilities in it - how the acoustics and function this particular
I've already talked a lot about Jack Bruce, but again I want to say
that he is as important as a composer as he is as a bassist. The same
goes for Mingus and Jaco. If you haven't heard Harmony Row, go get
it! We did, in fact meet at a festival when he was playing with Carla
Bley and I was performing on a Stockhausen piece. He's a great musician
who deserves a lot more credit.
time: I met Jaco a few times, and even loaned him my amp one night.
We first met when I was still in school around '77. I waited out in
the snow after a concert to tell him about the bass harmonics book
I was working on and also just to connect. That was in New Jersey.
A few years later, probably '81, I was living in L.A. My girlfriend
was waitressing at Dante's, a jazz club. She called me and said that
Jaco was there and wanted to sit in but didn't have an amp. Even though
he was still playing at a very high level, it was obvious he was having
problems just coping. That said, we still had a very good conversation,
focused and articulate about specific issues. I had the final draft
of the harmonics book and we went over some details. Then he asked
me if I wanted to go listen to some rough mixes (of Word of Mouth)
in his car. Of course I said yes. He threw his bass over his shoulder
and we went down the street. It was Winter and it does in fact rain
in L.A. and it was pouring. We walked for about three blocks, and
finally got to his rental car. He opened the trunk and tossed his
bass in. We got in and
listened to Three Views of a Secret, and part of John and Mary. What
can I say? There was such brilliance there along with lapses, but
we'll never see another like him.
found it funny/interesting that you also listed Entwistle. Something
of my ill spent youth must be showing through! Of course, his clangey,
metal sound predated a lot of other players. I'm sure that in my standard
"band mode" my ideal for sound rests on the triumvirate
of Bruce/Entwistle/Pastorious. I like to be able to roll my fingers
over to get from the warmth to the icy clear metal of all those guys.
far as Jack Casady, I liked his playing, but didn't really pay much
attention until he and Kaukonen went off to Hot Tuna. Hugh Hopper
I came to much later, but I like what he does.
you really want a guilty pleasure about bassists from me, go check
out Lee Dorman. He played with Iron Butterfly. Forget In a Gadda Da
Vida! Anything else he played on has this wonderful baroque feel to
it. He's very overlooked.
again, I'd say check out Mingus, LaFaro, Blanton, Haden and Eric Dolphy.
It's not so much about the specific instrument, but how those players
knew how to maintain a balance compositionally within their given
lot of my time and energy has been directed toward the construction
of the new studio spaces at Yale for the Center for Studies in Music
Technology. We will be moving in there in a few months. The whole
building will be equipped with the latest digital resources. Sometime
next year we'll have a big "kickoff" concert, and I'll keep
you posted about that.
am currently working on a piece for flute and electronics which will
be premiered in March 2003 for an international flute workshop. But
even sooner I will be the featured composer on New Music New Haven.
That will be on Feb. 6, and I think two pieces will be performed -
one for oboe and electronics, and one for handbell ensemble.
doing much more composing than performing right now. However, I did
have an opportunity to contribute to an interesting project both as
a player and arranger. For a long time - since I was a kid really
- I've been a big fan of Procol Harum's music. They were one of the
acts on the first rock concert I ever went to, and I was very impressed
by them. The guy who runs their website got to know my work a couple
of years ago. Also by coincidence, Ben Verdery is also a big Procol
fan. Anyway, there is a Procol Harum tribute album in the works with
people from around the world contributing versions of some of their
favorite Procol tunes. Ben and I were hoping to also come up with
a bass and guitar duo, but our schedules just were not working for
that, so the person running this project asked if I could do one of
my multi-track bass arrangements. I re-listened through their rep
and settled on Repent Walpurgis, a song which concludes their first
album. Musically it was challenging, especially to translate BJ Wilson's
wonderful drumming into thumping and bumping etc. on the bass. But
also I wanted to see if I could record mix and produce the whole thing
on my laptop computer. I'm running a MacIntosh G4 titanium with the
CD burner right in it. It all worked pretty well. For the tech nerds
- I was running Digital Performer with their 828 box, and also utilized
some "Waves" plug-ins.
keep you informed of new and fun developments, such as - I'm working
on an opera based on The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker - but that is
going to require some time and money to get off the ground!