A PROTÉGÉ OF SUCH JAZZ STARS AS sax man George Garzone, guitarist John Scofield, and drummer Billy Drummond, 24-year-old Michael Feinberg brings hefty tone and solid time to his own sextet of talented young players on With Many Hands. Amid his compositions’ tricky meters and knotty melodies, Feinberg turns in robust walking lines, spiky upright funk grooves, searching solos, and a finger-twisting bopstyle melody. The New York–based Atlanta native lists Dave Holland as his main bass influence; further musical inspirations include Stevie Wonder, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Outkast. “Whatever you’re listening to seeps into your music,” Feinberg notes. “I have pretty eclectic tastes.”
How do you keep a strong groove going amid your complicated compound meters?
The most important thing is to have a strong enough foundation with the composition that you can free yourself from just playing one specific rhythm. That way, you can internalize the pulse to be able to play over the bar lines. Given a song in 7/4, some people will play with a kind of 7/4 clave. That’s boring, and not really appropriate for every composition. On the other hand, the Brad Meldau Trio plays “All the Things You Are” in 7/4, and I don’t think Larry Grenadier plays a bass line phrased in seven at all—he’s playing dotted-quarter rhythms, half-note rhythms, and sometimes with a half-time feel. That’s the kind of thing I try to accomplish.
Do you have a method for practicing that approach?
I try to figure out every rhythmic combination possible in those meters. If I have four bars in 7/4, I look to get beyond the typical rhythmic patterns. So I’ve written out hundreds of over-the-bar-line rhythms. Another thing I do is superimpose other meters inside of the bar—in 7/4, instead of playing four quarter-notes plus three-quarter notes [Ex. 1, bar 1], I’ll play three-over-four, followed by four-over-three [Ex. 1, bar 2]. It gives me a broader palette.
Do you start with bass lines when you write?
There are instances when I’m practicing something, and it strikes me that it could work in a composition. But I try to let the music create itself and to stay out of the way as much as possible—not to make it a cool bass line, but to make it a good song.
You use a high setup; is that for the tone it gives you?
I love the old gut-string sound of Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Garrison. You can see that kind of setup in videos from the ’50s and ’60s—especially with Jimmy Garrison; he had like three inches of space between his fingerboard and strings. I’m really drawn to that style and tone. I like the heavy, thumpy sound.
HEAR HIM ON
Michael Feinberg, With Many Hands [MFMusic, 2011]; Evil Genius [Chew On This, 2009]
Basses Czech-made ¾-size upright, Warrior Artist Series 5-string, Fender Jazz Bass, Takamine acousticelectric bass guitar
Rig Upright: David Gage Realist pickup, Aguilar Tone Hammer head, Aguilar SL 112 cab; electric: 1964 Ampeg B-18, Aguilar Tone Hammer preamp pedal
Strings Upright: Velvet Strings; electric: medium-gauge Ken Smith