From The Spring 1990 Premiere Issue
Right from the start, we wanted Bass Player to cover all the basses—electric, acoustic, rock, jazz, R&B, classical … even vocal. (The Spring 1990 issue had a profile of bass singer Richard Greene of the Bobs). And when it came to pushing the limits of expression, we couldn’t think of anyone more important than Anthony Jackson. Contributing Editor Chris Jisi— who has probably written more articles about bass and bass playing than anyone else on the planet—set up an interview at Jackson’s New York City apartment. Armed with his tape recorder and a bunch of 90-minute cassettes, Chris sat down with Anthony and started asking questions. Anthony answered at length, drawing deeply on his knowledge of music and fearlessly offering many strong opinions. Hours went by. Chris ran out of tapes, but Anthony pulled out some more—“Keep going! I’ve got more to say!”
When it was over, Chris had more than eight hours of recordings. It was a transcriber’s nightmare but a mother lode of great material. Chris shaped it into two Q&A articles, which ran in the Spring and Summer 1990 issues. In the first installment, subtitled “Inspirations,” Anthony explained why he had pioneered the 6- string bass.
Chris Jisi:When did the idea for a contrabass guitar occur to you?
Anthony Jackson: As a beginner, I observed proper tuning sequence— fourths—but often brought the entire sequence down a half- or whole-step in order to put certain important bass notes in the lowest possible octave.… For one reason or another, I decided I’d had enough of this very unfortunate need to compromise, and an idea that had been hovering just outside of awareness popped forward. The idea was a special instrument with an extra string on the bottom [and] the top. By the time I began traveling extensively, in 1972, the 6-string extended-range bass guitar had become, for me, an inevitability.
Chris Jisi:There has been some criticism leveled at the 6-string bass. Some players call it a marketing gimmick while others feel they should master the “standard” 4- string before concerning themselves with a six. Your thoughts?
Anthony Jackson: My feeling is: Why is four the standard and not six? As the lowestpitched member of the guitar family, the instrument should have had six strings from the beginning. The only reason it had four was because Leo Fender was thinking in application terms of an upright bass, but he built it along guitar lines because that was his training. The logical conception for the bass guitar encompasses six strings. As regards the issue of “mastering the 4-string” before moving on to the six, consider that inasmuch as there is no point where one can be said to have “mastered” anything, to make this inane suggestion reveals the speakers to be idiots. As long as we remain seekers, never truly achieving our ultimate goals, we may as well start with the basic blueprint and enjoy the expanding expressive possibilities of the extended range of the instrument. Of course, the undoubtedly famous-name superstars who utter this nonsense probably regard themselves as masters in their own right. So be it. For the rest of us, their attitude reveals them to be jealous, angry, and frustrated. Too damn bad.