Kermit Driscoll’s Wake-Up Call

DEEP IN DISCOURSE AND DISCOVERY, with a strong dose of “downtown,” Kermit Driscoll’s Reveille is one of the year’s standup- and-take notice jazz sides.

DEEP IN DISCOURSE AND DISCOVERY, with a strong dose of “downtown,” Kermit Driscoll’s Reveille is one of the year’s standup- and-take notice jazz sides. The key for Kermit, who has spent the past 30 years as a top New York doubler, is his selection of guitar and drum deities Bill Frisell and Vinnie Colaiuta as running mates. The three met and made music at Berklee in the mid ’70s, playing in a lounge band before Driscoll joined Frisell in his landmark early-’90s trio (with drummer Joey Baron). On Reveille, the three slow-cook their way through eight Driscoll originals and two covers, with equally attuned pianist Kris Davis joining on half the tracks.

What led you to finally record your solo debut?

I’ve wanted to record my music for a long time, and I finally woke up to the importance of doing so—thus the album title. The genesis was a serious battle I had with Lyme disease in 2006, during which Vinnie was very supportive, telling me we were going to play together again. I took him up on his offer, although it was a few more years until we could find one day when both Vinnie and Bill were available. I had amassed enough material over the course of my career, but I encouraged Bill, Vinnie, and Kris to bring whatever they wanted to the music. There were written parts in some tunes, however the central and most important elements were improvisation and interaction.

What role does your bass play?

I’m most at home in a support role, whether in the traditional sense or not. I’ve come to realize as bassists we have the opportunity to orchestrate the direction of the music, too. Simply by playing a whole-note, the other players react and use more space, as well. If I shift to the upper register, it might inspire Kris to use the lower register of the piano, as happened on “Thank You.” Mostly, I wanted what I played to be dependent on the direction of the band and the music. A good example is Bill’s solo on “Reveille,” which ended up being very interactive.

What was it like reuniting with Bill and Vinnie?

Bill is probably my main musical influence. The vamp in the second part of “Hekete”— I’m pretty sure that’s stolen from him! Like everyone, I listen to all the masters, but I’m most influenced by the people I’ve played with, and Bill would be number one. With Vinnie, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to hang with his polyrhythmic concept, but it just felt so comfortable and good. No matter what he plays, the groove is always there, and he really plays to the music. It turned out to be one of the most fun sessions I’ve ever done.


Basses Circa-1850 Tyrolean upright bass with Fishman Full Circle pickup; MTD Kingston 5-string; ’62 Fender Precision

Rig Acoustic Image Focus 2R with Epifani 210UL cabinet

Bow Sue Lipkins French-style

Strings Pirastro Evah Pirazzi (upright), Ken Smith roundwounds (on MTD), old flatwounds (on P-Bass)


Kermit Driscoll, Reveille [2011, 19/8 Records]; John Hollenbeck, Eternal Interlude [2009, Sunnyside]; Dan Willis, The Satie Project [2009, Daywood Drive]; Bill Frisell, Live [1991, Gramavision]


Grand Arrival - Linda Oh Makes A Weighty Debut With Entry

ONE OF THE SIT-UP-AND-TAKE-NOTICE bass solo CDs of 2009 was Linda Oh’s Entry, a dark, daring trio debut featuring Oh’s upright and compositions, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and drummer Obed Calvaire. The twenty-something Oh was born in Malaysia and raised in Western Australia. At 15, after exploring classical piano, clarinet, and bassoon, Linda began playing electric bass in her high school big band and local rock bands and theater groups. Upright lessons followed soon after, and in 2004 she was a winner of the IAJE Sisters of Jazz collegiate competition in New York City. Having since moved to New York and completed her Masters at the Manhattan School of Music, Oh is fixture around town on upright and electric bass. In addition to leading her own gigs, she has backed jazz vets and rising talents including Slide Hampton, Mark Whitfield, Billy Kilson, Joel Frahm, Dave Binney, and the LeBoeuf Brothers.

Men in the Mirror: The Bassists of Michael Jackson How Alex Al And His Predecessors Pumped Up The King Of Pop

THERE’S A REVEALING EXCHANGE ABOUT FIVE MINUTES into This Is It, the documentary about the late Michael Jackson’s planned world tour, in which the Gloved One is encouraging his keyboardist to play the answer riff to the penetrating bass line of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” funkier. “It’s not there yet,” he says gently, before singing the entire two-measure groove flawlessly in the pocket, while playing air bass. Real bass seems to have always been at the forefront of Jackson’s music, whether it came from studio savants in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York, or his landmark use of synth bass that remains in vogue to this day. Alex Al, Jackson’s bassist since 2001 and a member of the seven-piece band featured in the film, concurs. “Bass was the most important instrument to him. He’d make references to Paul McCartney’s melodic playing with the Beatles, James Jamerson being upfront and center with Motown, or Stevie Wonder’s left hand.”

The 50th Anniversary Of The Fender Jazz Bass

THINK FENDER JAZZ BASS and what comes to mind? Jaco Pastorius’s fretless canvas? Larry Graham or Marcus Miller’s thumb thunder? John Paul Jones or Geddy Lee’s progressive punch? While Leo Fender’s Precision Bass stands as an iconic symbol of the first mass-produced electric bass guitar, his Jazz Bass, an arguably perfected upgrade introduced nine years later, in 1960, is better defined by the musicians who manned it. In truth, much about the instrument has a sense of irony, including the fact that the P-Bass’s perennially younger, sleeker, sexier sibling has turned 50 this year. Richard Smith, Fender historian, author, and curator of the Leo Fender Gallery at the Fullerton Museum, observes, “What’s interesting is how an instrument named for and targeted toward jazz musicians instead became the choice of rock & rollers, and made its mark very quickly. Timing-wise, the electric bass was making the huge transition from ’50s-style music to ’6

Secrets Of The Motown Vault

CALL IT A PERFECT STORM OF BASS. The setting is Studio A at Universal Mastering Studios East, in midtown Manhattan. Sitting at opposite ends of the board are Anthony Jackson and James Jamerson Jr., the world’s foremost authorities on the style and substance of Motown master James Jamerson. Harry Weinger, VP of A&R for Universal Music’s catalog division, with a menu of original session tapes at his fingertips, starts the Supremes’ 1968 single, “Reflections.” Instantly, and without noticing the other, Anthony and James Jr. begin intently playing air bass, each precisely matching the notes emanating from the speakers. And what notes they are. With several instruments turned off in our custom mix, and Jamerson’s bass boosted, his part is more than just ghost-in-the-machine groove, it’s a living, breathing entity that can physically move you—as we learn when one of his token drops causes our collective bodies to bend sideways in delighted reaction. Recalling his vault experie

Bassplayer Live : 2009 Overview

FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR, SUNSET Boulevard in Los Angeles served as the stylish backdrop for BASS PLAYER LIVE!, on October 24 and 25. With the event scheduled seven days earlier than last year’s Halloween-weekend tilt, and with one of the most comprehensive lineups yet assembled, there was nary a hint of a sophomore jinx. In fact, BPL 2009 tallied its highest-ever number of exhibitors and attendees. The proceedings actually began on the evening of the 23rd at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, with a screening of Rambling Boy, the new documentary on the life of jazz legend Charlie Haden. Haden—who joined Tower Of Power groove god Francis “Rocco” Prestia as recipients of BP’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award—spoke afterward, along with filmmaker Reto Caduff.