Rickey Minor: Beyond the Bass

July 21, 2014
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For Rickey Minor and his clinic guests at last November’s Bass Player LIVE!, Nathan East and “Ready” Freddie Washington, high-profile plucking lay ahead in 2014. Minor moved his entire band from the Tonight Show to American Idol in February (with no days off), Washington looked at a 50-city national tour with Steely Dan, and East promoted his March-released selftitled solo CD on TV and onstage. So we were fortunate to have these folks (plus drum heavy Steve Ferrone) for a meet-up on SIR’s Room A stage, under the working title “Beyond the Bass.” After an opening jam on a blues shuffle in D, and introductions, that’s exactly what Minor asked Washington. “For me, beyond the bass is about feel,” explained Freddie. “If you didn’t have a bass in your hands, what does your body language convey? If you’re trying to get people to dance, you gotta have some rhythm in your body. That’s what I play off of: the rhythm in my body. I don’t play bass anymore—I know how to play the instrument—I play bass feel. You want them to say, ‘Get me that cat. It’s not the notes he was playing, it was the feel coming out of him.’ That’s what you need to get to the next level. Reading the notes is one thing; beyond that is, what does it feel like?” Minor asked East about expanding one’s role beyond the bass. “That’s where all of us become entrepreneurs and figure out ways to generate income,” he replied, before listing songwriting, producing, arranging, Pro Tools skills, and other side roles. “Not wearing just one hat.”

Rickey asked Steve Ferrone what he looks for in a bass player. “Someone I can’t hear,” laughed the stickman, recounting the story of he and Anthony Jackson being locked so tight on Chaka Khan’s albums that it wasn’t until playback that he was aware what the bass was doing. Next came a request for Washington to play his landmark “Forget Me Nots” bass line, and a discussion of East’s role in the writing and recording of the Phil Collins/Philip Bailey hit “Easy Lover.” This led to a second jam in E; Ex. 1 shows the three interlocking parts the trio found using their most-musical ears.

Post-jam topics included Rickey’s fan mail, dealing with lessthan- satisfactory drummers (use body language and stay in one place), placement in the pocket, each bassist’s first session, finding your passion and confidence, and interpreting written charts. A final jam, initiated by East, was Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” Closing topics included versatility, the role of a musical director, and replacing a longtime bassist in a band. Summing up their exhaustive hour-and-ten-minute clinic, Rickey fittingly stressed, “Remember, in most cases, the gig doesn’t go to the most talented player but to the hardest worker.”

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