Where you aware that Bootsy Collins didn’t know what “the one” was the first time James Brown told him about it? Or that Alphonso Johnson bought one of the earliest Chapman Sticks from inventor Emmett Chapman without asking him how it was played? These and many other insides and insights came to light at a very memorable and revealing Bass Player LIVE! 2010, marking the event’s third consecutive year in Los Angeles, October 23–24.
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S.I.R. on Sunset Boulevard was once again the setting for a full Saturday of clinics, exhibitors’ displays, and bottom-end bonding. Victor Wooten and Alice In Chains bass ace Mike Inez launched the first round of clinics, followed by Billy Sheehan and rising session thumper/John Mayer bassist Sean Hurley. Out in the “gear garden,” astute attendees sampled ware that included Warwick basses and amps; basses by Fodera, MTD, Alleva-Coppolo, Ibanez, Kala, Epiphone, Modulus, Spector, and Sukop; amps from Aguilar, Ampeg, Ashdown Engineering, Carvin, Epifani, Gallien-Krueger, Hartke, Orange, and TC Electronic; strings via DR Strings, D’Addario, Rotosound, and GHS; and such assorted goodies as A Design direct boxes, Lemur uprights, Dunlop, Pigtronix, Source Audio, and Tech 21 effects, SKB cases, and Seymour Duncan pickups.
At 1:30PM, Ampeg held a press conference in which Darryl Jones introduced their new limited edition Heritage B-15. One hour later, Matt Garrison’s much-anticipated surround-sound clinic featured audience members “flying” his bass around the room using their fingers on an iPhone. Across the venue, Nate Watts held his successful clinic debut, in which he shared the stories behind his great bass work with Stevie Wonder. Jones did the same in the final clinic slot, recalling his years with Miles Davis, Sting, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones. A roundtable discussion with the top luthiers at the event concluded the daytime schedule.
Shifting west on Sunset to the Key Club, Saturday night’s annual concert got off to a trippy, groovy start courtesy of Juan Alderete’s feisty four-piece, Big Sir. Legendary Brazilian bandleader/keyboardist Sergio Mendes and Darryl Jones next took the stage to present Alphonso Johnson with his Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award. The gracious Johnson then steered his supple quartet—drummer Ndugu, keyboardist David Garfield, and guitarist Michael O’Neill—through a sizzling set of jazz and fusion standards. Victor Wooten appeared with mike in hand to present Bootsy Collins with his Lifetime Achievement Award, during which Collins was surprised with a birthday cake from Warwick, depicting Bootsy on the cover of BP’s November ’10 issue.
Funk time had arrived, as Bootsy was joined by Wooten on bass and original P-Funk members Blackbyrd McKnight on guitar and Frankie “Kash” Waddy on drums. Their soaring set seemed intent on reaching for Collins’s trademark “wall behind the sky.” Bootsy then “took it to the bridge” on everyone; as Steve Bailey and his legion of all-star jammers plugged into their backline wall of rigs, Collins remained to MC P-Funk’s classic “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).” While each of the ten jammers—ranging from Verdine White, Nathan Watts, and “Ready” Freddie Washington to Brian Bromberg, Billy Sheehan, and Divinity Roxx—stepped forward, Bootsy egged them and the crowd on, at times leaning over the soloist’s shoulders with the ghostly presence of his alter-ego, Casper.
Not to be outdone, a wireless Alphonso Johnson emerged from the front vestibule of the Key Club, playing his hit, “Bahama Mama.” Crossing the floor while fingering the melody, he came onstage to join a jam line that included Bailey, Darryl Jones, Matt Garrison, Alex Al, Janek Gwizdala, Hadrien Feraud, John B. Williams, and BP’s outgoing editor-in-chief Jonathan Herrera (nice solo and exit, Jon!).
Still funkified from the previous night’s concert confab, attendees returned in bulk to S.I.R. Sunday morning, packing the opening clinics of Megadeth thrash pioneer David Ellefson and Victor Wooten bandmate Anthony Wellington. Divinity offered her rap-’n’-bass best opposite Alphonso Johnson’s thoughtful and reflective live interview. Bunny Brunel, manning upright and electric, was joined by guest musicians in his clinic, while Bootsy delivered a deep and candid assessment of his storied career in his live interview. Meanwhile, back in the exhibitors areas, Warwick’s room continued to buzz with jams featuring Bailey, Wooten, and drummer Joel Taylor, while visiting luminaries throughout the bass space included Lee Sklar, Jack Casady, Blasko, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Phil Chen, Martyn LeNoble, Neil Stubenhaus, Jimmy Earl, and more.
Finally, at 4PM, Steve Bailey and his 6-string fretless spun tales and melodies, aided by Taylor’s drums, in Clinic Room B. Alex Al brought in a supercharged star sextet comprised of members of the bands of Michael Jackson and George Lopez Tonight that threatened to blow out the walls of Clinic Room A, putting a powerful punctuation mark on the proceedings. By 6PM, as those remaining from the event’s record crowd exited, anticipation turned toward a rumored return to New York City in the form of a spring Bass Player LIVE!, as well as who will be featured in next fall’s Hollywood throwdown.