Lessons from Bass Player Live! - Hadrien Feraud

By Chris Jisi ,

CALL IT CONTINUING PROOF THAT MUSIC IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. PARISborn Hadrien Feraud, a fixture at all five Los Angeles editions of Bass Player LIVE!, may struggle somewhat with his English, but his bass playing spoke volumes to the lucky attendees who packed his event-closing clinic. Feraud, currently on tour with Chick Corea & the Vigil (with reedman Tim Garland, guitarist Charles Altura, and drummer Marcus Gilmore), presented an interesting lineup that was performing at the Baked Potato later in the evening. Upfront were vocalists Tyra Juliette, Christine Gordon, and Jessica Jeza Vautor, with keyboardist Dennis Hamm and veteran drummer Gordon Campbell (Earth, Wind & Fire) rounding out the rhythm section. In what has become a Feraud trademark, he selected obscure or unexpected cover tunes that suited his sextet perfectly. Witness his opening song, Erykah Badu’s “Back in the Day (Puff )” [from Worldwide Underground, Motown, 2003], in which he used his thumband- palm-mute to cover and melodically and harmonically expand upon the original synth bass line. Salient solos by Hamm and Hadrien brought the piece even deeper into the contemporary jazz realm.

Next up, Gordon sang lead on Michael Jackson’s ballad “Stranger in Moscow” [from HIStory, Epic, 1997], an ideal blend of related and unrelated major chords for further solo flights by Hamm and Hadrien, who moved fluidly from blues to bop. Feraud co-wrote the ensuing piece, “Walkin’,” with Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, who debuted it on his thrilling solo debut, The Golden Age of the Apocalypse [Brianfeeder, 2011]. Hamm blew first, followed by Hadrien, who summoned the stylings of his friend Matt Garrison via Lydian lift-off s and four-finger flurries. After a brief exchange with the crowd, in which Feraud acknowledged Johnny and Julius Pastorius, he set up a killer version of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” [from So, Geffen, 1986]. Sung by Juliette, the arrangement was seasoned with tasty reharms, and led by Hadrien’s octaver-infused 5-string. His probing support work engaged Hamm during his solo, and Feraud retained a groove vibe during his own searing step-out. Campbell followed with a forceful solo around a repeated rhythm section figure.

Then, in the kind of magic moment that occurs each year with all the forces Bass Player LIVE! sets in motion, Johnny Pastorius brought up Jaco’s Bass of Doom for Feraud to play. Hadrien was a little hesitant until Johnny reminded him, “The reason we have the bass now is so people can play it— you’ve gotta play it.” Feraud called upon Julius Pastorius to man the drum kit, and along with Hamm, they dialed up a ballad version of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” [Maiden Voyage, Blue Note, 1965]. The bass sang out with its unmistakable growl in Hadrien’s capable hands, and the trio moved to doubletime swing, with walking bass, for Hamm’s solo. Back in halftime mode, the instrument seemed to inspire a string of melodic phrases from Feraud for his solo, which he continued as the groove doubled up. As the final chord faded to the far corners of the room, the joyous, emotional clinic put a powerful punctuation on Bass Player LIVE! 2012.