2007 Interview

Serving Jazz In The Digital Age

Q. What inspired you to first pick up the bass and what were your first attempts at playing it like?

A. My bass playing career started from a dream (seriously). I kept having a recurring dream that I should sell my alto saxophone/drum kit and buy an electric bass guitar. After many nights of having this same dream, I felt like I had no choice. Needless to say my first attempts at playing it was exciting yet embarrassing. Thankfully I found a great teacher and learned how to play with a proper foundation and hand position before I developed bad habits.

Q. Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?

A. I took lessons from Rusty Holloway in Knoxville, TN. Rusty is a monster player and a very talented man. He not only taught me the fundamentals of the electric bass, he also encouraged me to get a double bass and enroll in the University of Tennessee liberal arts music program. Rusty Holloway was very instrumental in steering me in the right direction(s).

Q. Who inspired you to learn the bass?

A. I started playing the bass in 1986 and was quickly influenced by the radio and mtv. At the time, I was also really into The Police as well as many heavy metal “hair bands”. In 1989 when I started college, I started focusing more on jazz artists like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis as well as their respective side musicians/careers.

Q. What is your practice regimen like?

A. My practice regimen varies a lot and is often in flux about every three months. Typically I work on transcribing, listening and composing. Currently, I’m trying to develop and work solely on my right hand thumb technique.

Q. How would you define your style of playing?

A. I’m influenced by so many different types of music and styles that its hard to pinpoint. Overall, I would say Contemporary Jazz. It’s not traditional in the straight ahead jazz style (however I can play this way) and it’s not totally smooth jazz either. It’s really more in the middle, hence the word Contemporary.

Q. Lets talk about your creative process. How do you approach writing an original song – do you compose from the bass or do you use a piano?

A. A little of both. When an idea is born, it comes out regardless of the instrument. The idea transcends the instrument. However that being said, their are certain nuances, techniques and style characteristics that lend themselves to their respective instrument and this can obviously influence and transform the original idea.

Q. What challenges do you face when switching from different styles of music?

A. For me, the more appropriate question is how I switch from double bass, electric bass and fretless bass within the musical context. This could take a while to explain so let me just say that the biggest challenge or my deepest desire is to just serve the music, regardless of the style.

Q. What other types of music or artists do you derive inspiration from?

A. I love good music and I’m influenced by so many things that I discover, particularly from the world wide web. There are just simply too many artists to mention here, but let me say that lately I’ve been checking out Pop/Electronica artist, Imogen Heap. I find her sense of songwriting, creativity and music very refreshing.

Q. What is the most important bit of advice you were given by another musician?

A. Lay back and groove, don’t try so hard. Let the music play itself.

Q. In regards to your latest release, “Decade 1996-2005” – what can you tell us about this recording?

A. We selected tunes from my five previous CD releases and we re-mixed, re-mastered and in some cases edited the beginnings and endings of songs in order to allow for more material to be included on the CD. “Decade 1996-2005” is 74 minutes long and there are 19 songs on this compilation. In addition, I wrote the title track “Decade” and played all the instruments.

Q. What equipment do you use live and in the studio and why?

A. I play Pedulla electric/fretless basses and a Kohler upright double bass for both live and studio projects. In the studio, I tend to go direct through a Brent Avril 2 channel 1272 preamp and for live situations I use a Walter Woods preamp with Bergantino cabinets. For a complete list of my current gear, you can find that on my website at:

Q. What one piece of equipment would you advise all bassists to own?

A. A drum machine or drum sampler of some kind. In my opinion the drum machine can serve the same function as the metronome, but it goes further in developing different rhythmical aspects and styles.

Q. What is been your proudest playing moment?

A. I can’t think of a single instance right now. However, let me just say that if the music is swinging and the cats are listening, there’s nothing better.

Q. What is the biggest disaster you’ve ever had onstage, and how did you cope with it?

A. I was playing a show with BlueGround UnderGrass in Minnesota and one of my neck through Pedulla basses fell off the stand and shattered into a million pieces. I heard this horrible sound and turned around and saw that my bass was demolished. It was like starring at a dead body. Needless to say, I didn’t handle the situation very well.

Q. Do you warm up before a concert and if so how?

A. If I have time, absolutely! I’ll usually play finger permutations or the chromatic scale in order to get the blood flowing and my mind concentrating on the fundamentals of the instrument.

Q. What is the most important bit of advice you could give to new bassists?

A. “Serve the Music”. Regardless of your style or situation, put your ego on the shelf and play what the music dictates.

Q. Thanks for your time and consideration for this article and interview. Any last thoughts for our readers?

A. My last thought of the day: Find a cause greater than yourself and ask, how may I serve?


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