Leland Sklar: Something In The Way He Grooves

JAMES TAYLOR AND CAROLE KING’S Troubadour Reunion Tour was the highest-grossing concert run of 2010, spanning 57 sold-out shows attended by over 700,000 fans.
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JAMES TAYLOR AND CAROLE KING’S Troubadour Reunion Tour was the highest-grossing concert run of 2010, spanning 57 sold-out shows attended by over 700,000 fans. For lovers of the low end, it had a special added dimension: the return of Lee Sklar for the first time since 1989. The session legend had created seminal singer/songwriter subhooks with Taylor since 1969, joined by guitarist Danny Kortchmar and drummer Russ Kunkel, who collectively formed the L.A. studio A-team, The Section. All three were back in place for the Troubadour trek. Five days after the tour’s completion, Sklar and Kunkel hit the road with Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, which is where BP asked Sklar how sweet it was to be back with the folk-rock icon.

How did you come to reunite with James Taylor?

James contacted me in November 2007 about doing a few shows with Carole, using the same lineup we had in 1971. It was very casual, and we loved getting back together again. It was like digging through the closet and finding those old slippers that you put on and go, Ahh! The tour came together two years later.

How did you relearn your bass lines?

I did a bit of reviewing, but at this point, they’re part of my DNA. We’ve all matured in playing and heart, so I do play some lines a little differently now. But for the most part, I wanted to respect the original parts.

What effect did your time with Taylor have on your bass playing?

James is a challenging artist for a bassist to play with, because he always has a bass part going with his thumb. So I needed to create parts that added to what he was doing and justified my being there. For that reason, he changed my style—and my life.

How did you approach learning Carole King’s bass lines?

I had a good sense to know what was needed, and I tried to stay as flexible as possible. Carole lets you know when you’re doing what she likes, but also when she would rather hear it another way. As we played more and more, we each presented our concepts, and then settled into a blend of the two that made us both happy. Charlie Larkey, who was married to Carole for a time, did most of her early recordings. They made a great team.

Will you work with James again?

We talked about some things, but it’s really up to James. He has a wonderful band he has used now for many years—with my dear friend Jimmy Johnson on bass—so I don’t know what will happen. But if he wanted to, I would be there in a second. On this tour, I discovered that the adage “you can’t go home again” is not necessarily true. I had the great privilege of going home musically with very dear friends after many years, and it was better than ever. They’re all at the top of their game, and it was a total joy.

TROUBADOUR REUNION
TOUR GEAR

Bass Dingwall Signature 5-string
Rig Euphonic Audio iAmp Pro head and NL410 4x10 cabinet
Strings GHS Super Steels [.040, .058, .080, .100, .128]. “They do a custom set for the fanned frets of my Dingwall that goes from a 35"-scale G to a 37"-scale B.”

SEE HIM ON
Carole King/James Taylor: Live at the Troubadour [Hear Music, 2010]

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