Bass Day '98
Hosted by John Patitucci, Bass Day ‘98 documents an annual event put on by The Bass Collective and Bass Player Magazine, dedicated to the bass – acoustic, electric, fretted, fretless, four-string, five-string, six-string...whatever the flavour. While this DVD release, which excerpts four outstanding performances and a number of interviews from that day in 1998, will clearly appeal to bassists, there is enough hot concert footage to appeal to anyone interested in the apparently limitless boundaries of the instrument.
Each segment features an excerpt from the bassist’s concert performance, followed by an interview or, in the case of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten, a short lesson on how to attain remarkable articulation on the instrument.
First up is Michael Manring, a self-professed fan of the late Jaco Pastorius, who opens with a stunning solo rendition of Pastorius’ famous tune, “Teen Town.” In the same way that Jaco used a delay device to set up a loop over which he could play, Manring extends the concept to a number of looping devices, creating a rhythmic, chordal and harmonic backdrop over which he can play the tune and improvise. While the other two pieces are impressive, “Teen Town” is nothing short of remarkable, for Manring’s control of the instrument and the assorted electronics attached to it.
Cuban acoustic bassist Andy Gonzalez is next, with a short set of Afro-Cuban jazz featuring a small ensemble with percussion, piano and horns. His interview section is enlightening, as he discusses the key fundamentals to Cuban music, and he also speaks with the great Bobby Rodriguez, arguably the father of Cuban jazz bass, who receives a lifetime achievement award.
Tower of Power’s bassist, Rocco Prestia, follows with a short but eminently funky set featuring drummer David Garibaldi, guitarist Jeff Tamelier and saxophonist Lenny Pickett. What is remarkable about Prestia, saddled up beside so many overtly virtuoso bassists, is how groove is absolutely paramount. Prestia takes little in the way of solos, but his ability to play both busy and in the pocket with Garibaldi is a lesson all its own. Prestia’s interview segment talks about how his groundbreaking work with Tower of Power seemed to just fall into place; how the combination of Prestia and Garibaldi intuitively built the foundation that is a model for anyone wanting to play funk music.
Victor Wooten, teamed with only a drummer, demonstrates exactly how far the bass has come. With tapping, popping and slapping techniques, he combines the best of virtuoso playing into a completely accessible and engaging experience. His dazzling ability to anchor a groove and play melody at the same time is nothing short of astounding. While some players with his level of technical ability come off as all style and no substance, Wooten puts it all together into a package that is never less than completely musical.
Following a brief lesson by Wooten the DVD ends, as did the day, with a funk jam that puts all the bassists on the stage together. Impressive for the fact that, after each soloist takes his turn, they return to a more traditional bass function and, with six bassists on stage, including Oteil Burbridge, things never get too busy; clearly, as impressive as all these players are, with formidable technique and concepts that liberate the instrument from its more traditional role, they still understand the fundamentals and demonstrate an ability to play together that shows exactly how much they are able to listen to what is going on around them.
As is the case with all of Hudson Music’s releases, the audio-visual quality is excellent. Rich sound and camerawork from various angles and distances gives the viewer a “you are there” experience.
Bass Day ‘98 is not simply a document by bassists, for bassists, although players will clearly get a lot from it; it equally of value for the interested listener who wants to gain a clear understanding of where the instrument has been and where it is going. As much about the instrument’s roots as it is about its potential, Bass Day ‘98 is an exciting and educational watch for players and non-musicians alike.
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