WHEN JAMES JAMERSON BEGAN CREATING HIS BIBLE of bass guitar playing, it could be heard on the radio—chapter and verse, each week. With Jaco poised to turn jazz bass on its ear, it was but a five-year journey from Florida to the world. But for gospel bassdom’s breakout innovator Andrew Gouche, mainstream recognition has been a 30-year passage. He first gained cult status with bassists via his probing, present parts on recordings for gospel music’s A-list, as well as his hugely popular residency at the Prayze Connection club in Los Angeles. But Gouche became a true underground underlord through the many web clips of his bass bravura, plus his crossover to become Chaka Khan’s musical director. Now, at long last, Andrew is claiming the spotlight with the pending late-winter/early-spring release of Andrew Gouche, his instrumental solo debut. The tentrack CD (nine of which were cut live in Seattle and augmented in the studio) is the perfect pulpit for Gouche’s singular, spirited, singing 6-string. Like a resonant Reverend guiding his flock (sister Jackie Gouche on vocals, saxophonist Donald Hayes, guitarist Darryl Crooks, keyboardists Phil Curry and Tim Carmon, and drummers Gordon Campbell and Royce Shorter), Andrew spins lead lines and countermelodies, triggers spontaneous grooves and unison riffs, and casts a joyous hue over his mixed set of inspirational covers and originals.
Born on May 27, 1959 and raised in the Crenshaw district of South Central Los Angeles, Andrew Gouche’s initial exposure to music was the sound of his mother’s piano playing and singing at his grandfather’s church. Told at age eight that he had to join his siblings in picking an instrument, Andrew selected trumpet. He stayed with the horn until he was 14 and saw Larry Graham on Soul Train. He recalls, “I persuaded my mom to buy me a Teisco bass and Silvertone amp from Sears. My friends used to make fun of me because I would sit in front of the TV, pour a whole box of Cap’n Crunch cereal and a half-gallon of milk into a pot, and just eat and practice bass all day.” While the grooves of Graham, Jamerson, Verdine White, and Stevie Wonder caught his ear, Gouche’s main influence was Gap Band bassist Robert Wilson, whom he first heard on records by gospel vocalist D.J. Rogers. “His approach was different from everyone else. I remember he tuned his E string down to B on ‘Yearning for Your Love’ [Gap Band III, Mercury, 1980]—he’s definitely unsung.”
Furthering his progess, Gouche happened to be singing in the choir at the church of the legendary Reverend James Cleveland, who revolutionized gospel music by incorporating R&B and jazz elements, thus setting the stage for modern-day gospel/secular music hybrids. Andrew relates, “Rev. Cleveland would let me sit on the side with my bass and amp and try to figure out the songs. Eventually, I learned all about music and chords from the great keyboardists in his Gospel Music Workshops.” Gouche began touring the world with Cleveland and meeting other praise & worship heavies, such as Andrae Crouch, who heard Andrew in Israel and had him in to record a few weeks later. Before long, Gouche was juggling gigs with Cleveland, Crouch, the Hawkins Family, and the Winans, as well as stints with Cheryl Lynn and the Jazz Crusaders. Out of the pack shone a new bass beacon.
Early in your gospel career, were you consciously trying to approach the bass role differently?
No, because it wasn’t really defined. In a lot of churches the organist played bass on the pedals, and where there was bass guitar there was no real precedent, so I just started my own precedent. When I first met Marcus Miller years ago, he said, “Man, I’ve heard a lot about you. What can I hear you on?” So I sent him four cassette tapes, and he called me up and said, “How do you get away with playing all that?” Right from the beginning I never had the desire to sound like any other bass player. That said, a key for me was meeting Joel Smith when I was 17. When I first heard him I got depressed because he was so incredible—but then when I got to play with him in the Hawkins Family band [with Smith on drums], it was like going from blackand- white to color. He opened up my whole approach to bass and enabled me to see all the different musical possibilities, because he had a broader influence base and a bigger vocabulary; he was into jazz and players like Anthony Jackson and Jaco. Bassists know who Joel is now, but back then the only reason I was better known in gospel was because I was traveling to play and record more than Joel, who stayed closer to home in Oakland.
What would you say got your name out there more—records or touring?
Gospel fans read album credits, and I was showing up on a lot of recordings. I didn’t realize it until I went to London with Andrae Crouch and the crowd responded when he introduced me. Afterwards they were like, “You’re the guy who played on ‘Spirit (Fall Fresh on Me)’” [Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir, Give Us Peace, Polygram, 1987]. That song really put my name out there, and the funny part was Edwin didn’t like the bass line at first. Another key track was “Use Me” by the L.A. Mass Choir [I Shall Not Be Defeated, Light, 1991]; afterward, you started to hear that groove everywhere in gospel.
What led you to tune your basses down a whole-step?
I knew Joel was tuning down to Eb, which made sense because a lot of gospel tunes are in flat keys. So in 1982 I started tuning my bass down to D, just so I would be lower than Joel [laughs]. I got my first 5- string, a Yamaha BB5000, right when it came out in 1985, and I tuned it down a step, like my 4-string. Not long after, I was doing a live recording at an Edwin Hawkins seminar and there was a ballad by Thomas Whitfield that had a break on it. I hit the low open A, and Thomas tripped out. When he got back to Detroit he had all of his local bass players tune their B strings down a step.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t really play bass lines as such. My playing is much more melody-driven, and I’m really in tune with the lyrics of the song. On sessions I always ask for the lyrics because they give what I play a meaning, an intent. I can just go in and play to changes, but when I know what the song is about, it dictates the attitude I play with. I’ve always said, some people like the way I play, some people don’t. I play the way I feel and let the chips fall where they may. I tell young bassists to follow their heart regardless of what others say. Because no matter who you try to please, someone is not going to like your playing. Looking back, I have no regrets; I realize there are certain gigs I’ll never get because I’m not a model “bass player;” I don’t read music, and some people think I play too many notes. But that’s cool; there’s enough music and listeners in the world that someone is going to want to hear what I do. And it works the other way, too. I stepped away from gospel briefly in the mid ’80s, and in 1997 I left Gladys Knight’s gig after six years without anything lined up because of burnout. I didn’t want to lose my love of playing. Fortunately, I came back to good playing and working situations both times.
What’s your concept when you’re improvising a bass line?
When I start playing I never know what’s about to come out. I look at my playing like a batting average, and I bat about .800: 80 percent of what I do is cool, 20 percent is not so cool, but I’ll take those percentages anytime. For the most part, I start playing and see where it goes, which means much of what I play is a reaction to what I’ve just played.It’s all still relevant to the song and the chord changes, but it gets freer as I go, especially with my gospel band. We’ll play the same song in consecutive masses on Sunday, but they’ll be totally different from each other. In a pop situation, like with Chaka, there’s still freedom, but it’s a little more arranged. There are set bass lines that I’ll vary slightly, and there are licks that I’ve figured out work at a certain point in a song, so I’ll do them every time.
You’re particularly known for your extended licks and fills.
Again, I just go for it and once in a while, in the middle of it, I’ll think, I shouldn’t have done that! Then I’ll laugh because I find my way out of it and land back on my feet. What helps is I have perfect pitch, I can hear every note in the chord—even when I can’t tell you exactly what the chord spelling is—and I know my way around the fingerboard really well, top to bottom. I’m not singing in my head what I’m playing, but I hear what I’m going for. Also, I think the joy of what I’m doing has a lot to do with putting it across and making it work.
How about the bass/drums relationship in gospel?
There are certain fundamental rules that apply to whatever style of music you’re performing, and the bass and drums playing together is one that applies big time in gospel. The key is, the whole band is playing parts, but it’s still open and improvisational within that framework because everybody is listening and aware of trying to play together, as a unit. There are those special, magical moments, but it’s not smoke and mirrors; there’s a lot of looking and communication onstage—plus we know each other’s tendencies.
Let’s cover your technique.
It’s basic and old school. I pluck with my index and middle fingers only; I slap conventionally—we used to call it thumping— with my thumb and index finger. When I did Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp recently, I saw how Victor Wooten and those cats slap, and it’s so much more efficient than what I do. I don’t use my ring finger or do any lefthand pats; my triplets are pretty much thumbthumb- index. I mute by laying my whole palm sideways on the strings and plucking with my index finger. I do pride myself in being able to play with as much dynamics using my thumb as most players do with their fingers. I’ll slap on slow ballads; that’s something I learned from Marcus Miller. Also, my overall touch is lighter than most players’; between my low action and my strings tuned down a whole-step, most players sound like they’re playing too hard when they try my bass. I haven’t had calluses in 20 years.
With my left hand, I’m more of a position player up and down the neck. My fingers don’t stretch much. I’m working on my dexterity, but that’s the main reason I like the 6-string: the easy access to all that range. For me, the bass is like someone singing, so what matters more than technique is tone. On my amp I do a 1–3kHz scoop and then boost 100Hz and 6k to 8k; that’s my favorite sound.
How did you come to be Chaka Khan’s musical director?
She had heard about me and came to one of my gigs in 2006. She loves bass players, and she told me I reminded her of Anthony Jackson; she said, “You don’t play like Anthony, but you have the same spirit in your playing.” She asked me to be her M.D., saying she wanted a different approach to all of her songs. I rearranged everything and her fans revolted a bit, saying the songs didn’t sound like the album versions. So we went back to playing more in the style of the records, but with a current vibe and technology—and the Chaka-holics love it. It’s been a total blast for me; Chaka can still sing anyone into the ground. The band is myself, George Johnson on drums, Javad Day on keys, and Eric Brice on guitar—all church boys.
Why do you think gospel musicians are more popular in the mainstream than ever?
A key is the availability of information now. Cats learn how to play in church but they also have Youtube, instructional DVDs, and so on. Today’s gospel musicians are a hybrid of a lot of styles, and they’re better educated in theory and harmony. Combine that with the feel they learn in church, and that’s why you have some in-demand monsters out there crossing into all different genres. This has made me realize I have to continue to work; I still approach it like I’m a hungry young player looking to be discovered. It’s not about competing with anyone; I’m just pushing myself to be better because you never get to the point where you can’t get better. Music evolves and you have to evolve, too. I never want to be that old cat sitting around talking about what I did back in the day.
What led you to make your debut CD and what was your concept?
The greatest satisfaction in my career was when I started doing my own music. But as my pastor was saying in his sermon this past Sunday, most people in the world are part of the starter’s club, but not many of us are members of the finisher’s club. I’m on a mission to get my music out there. This first CD is what I would call my inspirational instrumental album. I’m not a “gospel jazz” guy; I dislike that term. My concept was to play what’s in my heart. There are some originals and some covers of songs I’ve always wanted to record. Basically, it’s me singing through the bass; that’s what my playing is. I’ve been around the greatest singers in the world for most of my musical life, and I’m just a product of that.
What’s next for you?
I’m shifting into overdrive now. Following the release of my debut I’ll be mixing and releasing a vocal-oriented gospel CD. More immediately, I’ve got my big conference for gospel musicians, G-Music Summit, coming up on April 30 and May 1 in Los Angeles. It will feature many of the biggest names in the idiom teaching and performing. I feel blessed to be able to move forward with my career while continuing to give back to those who seek to follow the same path.
ANDREW GOUCHE TRACK CHECK
Untitled I wrote this with keyboardist Tim Carmon, but we still don’t have a title; it’s the lone
studio cut on the CD, and it has a Marcus Miller vibe. I used my MTD 6 to play the melody
track and the support track.
“Lift My Hands” I came up with the title and the hook, and my sister Jackie wrote the verses.
It’s a slow-jam groove with me on lead bass and support bass.
“Going Up Yonder” My arrangement of an old Walter Hawkins song that Gordon Campbell
really drives on drums. I ended by going from various effects to slapping in my closing solo.
“I’ll Go” An inspirational balled Donald Hayes wrote. I state the melody first, followed by Donald
on sax, and then Jackie sings it.
“A Secret Place” Our cover of the Commissioned song, written by Fred Hammond; I got to
stretch out with my thumb in a nod to Fred.
“Wade in the Water” Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” was the groove inspiration for my
arrangement of this traditional gospel tune.
“We Fall Down” I always wanted to cover this Donnie McClurkin hit because I like what the
song says lyrically. I start the track by myself and I added some unison riff sections.
“You Brought the Sunshine” The opening is a slapped chordal figure I worked out using the
chords of the hook. We changed the shuffle feel of Twinkie Clark’s great original version to a
straight funk vibe.
“Father, I Love You” Donald and I wrote this ballad. I thought it would be a good vehicle for
my fretless MTD 6, which there are two tracks of.
“There’s Not a Friend” A traditional gospel standard that builds from bass melody with organ,
sax melody with band, and then Jackie’s vocal while I have fun playing around the pedal tones.
Sure to draw the praise and worship of pluckers everywhere, Andrew Gouche finds the title bassist totally in his element, taking a melodic, vocal approach to everything from his thick-pocketed support to his legato and staccato step-outs.Ex. 1a shows the opening and transition bass line/melody for Gouche’s untitled, Marcus-like studio track. Be sure to nail the slapped ghosted octaves before reaching up for the melodic portion. Ex. 1b contains a typical twobar groove phrase behind the keyboard solo in the track’s second half. The first bar of the phrase (dig that Bn against the Gm7 chord) is repeated, while the second bar serves as improvised space. Gouche plugged his MTD 6 into an SWR Mini Mo’ preamp EQed to cop a Moog bass vibe. Ex. 2 features part of the Gouche-initiated band unison riff that leads into the traded solos on “Going Up Yonder” (first heard at 2:41). He explains this muchused device by his band: “It’s just like with a choir. Mostly they sing in harmony, but sometimes they sing in unison.” Ex. 3 contains the first eight measures of the melody on the reverent ballad “I’ll Go.” Cop Andrew’s expressive devices (hammers, pull-offs) and then internalize them and just sing the line on your bass. Ex. 4 shows the funky one-bar groove Gouche improvises behind the guitar and sax solos on “Wade in the Water” (first heard at 2:52).Dig the new tonal color he gets by emphasizing the F and Bb on two and four against the Gm7 chord. The second measure occurs at 5:29, as Andrew answers the sax player’s staccato blues-scale riff with a descending one of his own. Finally, Ex. 5 features another Gouche-initiated band unison section, first heard at 2:57 of “You Brought the Sunshine.”Keep the C octaves short and get loose for the bebop-ish riff in the last two measures.
Main basses MTD 635 6-string (ash
body, blood-maple top, maple neck
and fingerboard); MTD 535 5-string
(spalted maple top, maple neck,
ebony fingerboard), both tuned
down a whole-step
Strings Dean Markley SR2000
Light Gauge (.030, .044, .060,
.078, .098, .125)
Rig Epifani UL902C head, two Epifani
Performance PS410 cabinets, two Epifani
UL112 cabinets (modified with Performance
Effects Roland GT-8B multi-effects
Other Snap Jack cables; iGig bass cases
With Chaka Khan Funk This, Sony. With Andrae Crouch Pray, Warner Bros.; Mercy,Quest; No Time to Lose, Light. With Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar/Chicago Mass Choir, Polygram. With Rev. James Cleveland The Best of Rev. Cleveland and the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir,Savoy. With L.A. Mass Choir (all on Light) I Shall Not Be Defeated; Come As You Are;Give Him the Glory. With Gospel Music Workshop of America (both on Savoy) Live in Chicago; Live in Washington D.C. With the Winans Decision, Qwest. With Mary Mary Thankful, Columbia. With Warren G Regulate...G Funk Era, Def Jam. With Earth, Wind & Fire The Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, Columbia Legacy. With Ruben Studdard I Need an Angel, J Records. With Coolio Gangsta’s Paradise,Tommy Boy. With Rev. James Moore Live at Jackson State University, Savoy. With Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. Let It Rain, Tehilla.With others Hidden Beach Recordings presents:Unwrapped, Volumes 1-4, Hidden Beach.
ANDREW GOUCHE’S TEN FAVORITE BASSISTS
1 Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone,
inventor of slap)
2 Robert Wilson (Gap Band bass man)
3 Joel Smith (pioneering gospel bassist
4 Marcus Miller (solo artist, Miles Davis,
5 James Jamerson (Motown legend)
6 Fred Hammond (leading gospel artist
and seminal gospel bassist)
7 Terence Palmer (gospel bass veteran
and solo artist)
8 Thaddeus Tribbett (contemporary
gospel bass heavy)
9 Hanley Edwards (Billy Preston bassist)
10 Ethan Farmer (bassist and musical
director for Top 40 artists)
ANDREW GOUCHE ON THE WEB