The Sunday clinics that close Bass Player LIVE! are always worth the wait; in 2012, an on-stage interview with Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Chris Squire went opposite a powerful performance by young turk Hadrien Feraud. This past November, the weekend’s closing ceremonies saw a similarly heavy pairing, with a three-man bass jam with Nate Watts, Sekou Bunch, and Brandon Brown playing the funky yang to the soulful, swinging yin of a trio led by Carlitos del Puerto one of today’s most exciting rising stars of bass. The clinic came just hours after Carlitos’ guest spot honoring Lee Rocker at the weekend’s marquis concert, where del Puerto’s musical depth and technical mastery made an unforgettable mark.
“I’ve gotten to see this guy play in so many settings,” BP’s Chris Jisi said in introducing the clinic. “He changes the way the bands he’s in play. We’re talking, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Chick Corea, David Sanborn.” The list goes on. The BPL! clinic room may have been small-time compared to the big stages Carlitos is accustomed to, but those in attendance—Brian Bromberg, Neil Stubenhaus, Phil Chen, Jimmy Earl, Brandino, Jerry Watts, and Rufus Philpot among them—definitely made it feel like the hippest venue in town.
“I was going to give a whole clinic, but no need,” said Carlitos as he thanked those smart enough to stick around. “I’m just going to play for you guys.” Introducing guitarist Ramon Stagnaro and drummer Jimmy Branly, Carltos set the mood with a gorgeous rubato intro on upright bass before kicking it into gear. “As we were driving over here, I was thinking, What can I give these new friends for them to take home?” said Carlitos. “The only thing that I can really explain and be coherent about it is in Cuban music.” Del Puerto went on to shine a light on how the influence of American music on the classic rhumba led to its morphing into the more modern, funky, timba style. On top of Branly’s cascara rhythmic pattern, Carlitos demonstrated a few of the ways he plays with the traditional tumbao feel by using rhythmic displacement. Similarly, he showed how vastly different the tumbao pattern feels when played over a typical funk beat. The listening audience may have been seated, but there wasn’t a still body in the room.
Closing with a nod to the two giants of Cuban bass, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, and Carlitos’ father, Carlos del Puerto, Carlitos closed the clinic with another performance, bringing those in the room to their feet, wanting to hear more, and anxious to do it all again next fall.