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School of Bass - Day 3

Written at 2:16 AM on 22 October 2006.

I was some kinda tired this morning. It was a good tired, though.

The first class (which I was late for) was with Ray Riendeau. He went over some slap grooves and demonstrated some double-thumping and using the left hand for percussion, neither of which I had attempted previously. Even the very talented slappers got something out of it.

Fellow classmaates

The next class was with Mel Brown  We continued working with chords using what he refers to as the "first choice" and "second choice" shapes/notes for the different types of chords. To emphasize the usefulness, he pulled out his weathered copy of The Real Book (a book of Jazz standards). 

He randomly picked a song. He then read out the chords to us while we named the intervals. And then using just the "first choice" shapes he played a few of the songs. It was amazing to hear the chord changes over these improvised walking bass lines. Granted, he emphasized the root to establish the point, but it was useful just the same.

The third technical section was with Ed Friedland. It was called "The Pentatonic Explosion". I have to say it was an epiphany for me regarding modes - it just all tied together for me. That kind of moment is well worth the price of admission. I will detail this in another post since I believe it is well worth sharing.

There's one more educational session tomorrow morning. I've probably got a year's worth of stuff to work on. I'm excited and at the same time a bit overwhelmed. That's usually a good sign.

During the afternoon the instructors and Chuck Rainey held a roundtable called "Bass Attitude". It was kind of free-form, which was good. They all have a love for bass, especially Mel and Chuck. Chuck said he kisses his basses and tells them he loves them. One attendee who worked full-time as a bassist for a while talked about it feeling like a job. Mel said to always try to be thankful that you get to choose to make your living doing something you love. It beats the hell of out getting paid to do something you hate. Chuck said he had never really felt that way. He's such a genuine guy I believe him.

Bobby Vega

Next, Bobby Vega held a clinic called "Improve Your Groove". Don't know who he is? Shame on you! Think "I Wanna Thank You Being Mice Elf Again". He's yet another genuinely nice guy - and he's funny. He's got a great style to his playing. He uses a pick and his fingers (including slap). He'll often put his pick in his mouth during a song to use his fingers. This guy grooves, that's for damn sure.

I asked him what he felt his weakness was. He says it's that he gets nervous sometimes. He said when he was younger he would strut like George Jefferson (American TV reference). Now that he's older he's more self-conscious about his playing. He said when he toured with Tower of Power he was really worried about filling the Rocco's shoes. And he said playing in front of a room full of bass players was intimidating.

Remember how I wrote that Chuck Rainey said he never played anything he hadn't heard before? Well, he was sitting in the back next to me during Bobby's clinic. Bobby started doing some pretty wild shit using his pick (and his palm for muting). Chuck got up and walked along the wall to get closer so he could better see what Bobby was doing. Can you believe it? Chuck Rainey (Chuck RAINEY, folks), is up there checking out another guy's chops. It just goes to show you there's always more to learn.

Bobby is working on a new solo project which centers on bass. He played a funky version of "The Joker" with a lot of harmonics and sustained bass notes. His guitar player (the name escapes me now, but he was a bass player's dream) handled the melody in a jazzy sort of way. It was beautiful. Really. I've never used harmonics for anything other than tuning. This one performance changed my attitude about them (one more thing to learn, eh?).

The evening concert had Ed on bass and Carol Chaikin on wind. They played some jazz standards. Next Mel came up and took over bass duties and Ed whipped out his piccolo bass. Needless to say, things got very interesting. A piccolo bass sounds pretty damned cool.

Next up was Bobby Vega and his guitarist. Of course, it was a blast. We were in awe. So many great bassists and so many different styles. But they all had groove - and I mean GROOVE, baby! I was sitting outside with Chuck, and he was again watching him like a hawk and sorta dancing in place.

Bobby Vega and Andy West

And guess who was in the house? None other than Andy West of The Dixie Dregs. So next thing we know he's up on stage with Bobby Vega and they're both going at it. Two basses and one guitar - just like God intended it! Nobody stepped on anybody's toes. Of course, Carol was in there at all the right times. If she's ever in your town for a gig, check her out. She's a hoot to watch.

At lunch Carol asked me for a few French fries. "Sure," I replied. She then asked me if I wanted a bite of her taco (she had already finished her lunch). You gotta love lady Jazz players!

To end the night Chuck Rainey got up on stage with Bobby and played a couple of tunes. Huh? Am I really sitting here watching Chuck Rainey and Bobby Vega playing bass at the same time? And I'm not more than 10 feet away snapping pictures (I'll post those on Monday).

Have Bobby and Andy ever been on the stage at the same time like that before? How about Chuck and Bobby? Hell if I know, but I'm betting not. I'm thankful to say that I am one of a group of about 50 people who on a cool night in Scottsdale, Arizona, got to witness something that I wish could have been seen by anybody who has ever picked up a bass. Mere words cannot describe it.

It's almost 2:00 in the morning, and I'm still pumped!

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