– Christmas Interview – with Dan Baraszu and JPM

Q. What inspired you to first pick up the guitar/double bass and what were your first attempts at playing these instruments?

A. Dan: My dad, although he didn’t play an instrument, was a big music fan with great taste and a huge collection from just about every genre of music. He always had his stereo going in the house, so I learned to love music at an early age. I played the tennis racket for a while until moving up to the real thing. The first guitar I had was a cheap little rental that came in a cardboard box. Having horrible action, it was really hard to play. So my first attempts were discouraging. But I kept playing it until my parents bought me an electric for my tenth birthday. My grandfather and his brother both played and they insisted I have a Gibson and I got a Gibson Sonex guitar. I loved that guitar and played it incessantly. My brother and I formed our first band that same week. He was the drummer, playing on pots and pans to begin with.

A. JPM: I was inspired from a recurring dream about playing bass. I know that it may sound trite, but it’s true. I started on the electric bass guitar and had been playing for about a year before picking up the double bass. While the electric and double bass are two different animals, starting on the electric gave me a head start in learning my notes and getting comfortable playing on all strings.

Q. Dan did you take lessons or are you self-taught?

A. After getting an electric guitar I started taking weekly lessons at a local music store. I pretty much kept taking 1-2 lessons a week from a number of different classical, jazz or rock teachers in the metro Detroit area until going to college, where of course I also took private lessons.

Q. Joseph, who inspired you to learn the Double Bass?

A. My first teacher was Rusty Holloway (Knoxville, TN). Rusty started me with proper technique/hand positioning/arco development etc. etc. At first, I would say Rusty inspired me to learn. As I started listening to bass masters on various recordings, I fell in love with Paul Chambers, Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown, Ron Carter.

Q. How did you guys decide to record a Christmas record and what can we expect from “Christmas Time Is Here”?

A. Dan: Is it not a requirement to make a Christmas recording at some point? I think our recording, Christmas Time Is Here, is a unique contribution for Christmas music loving audiences everywhere.

A. JPM: Dan and I had been doing several private gigs over the last few years around the Christmas season and many of the clients were requesting Holiday tunes. At some point, Dan and I discussed how we should record and document what we were doing, hence this CD recording “Christmas Time Is Here”.

Q. This is a duo recording, why or how did you decide to have this as the CD concept?

A. Dan: We have been talking about doing a duo cd for about a year. Initially we were thinking about doing original tunes but that kind of morphed into a Christmas recording. I love playing duo with a bass player and there have been some great recordings done in the past. “Chops”, from Joe Pass and Neils Henning Orstead Pederson is really great as well as “Alone Together”, with Jim Hall and Ron Carter. JPM and i have played a lot of gigs together in this format and it is always a blast.

A. JPM: It was born out of gigs that we were playing around the Christmas season. Most of the jobs were in fact duo performances. This naturally opened the door for the idea of this recording.

Q. Lets talk about your creative process. How do you approach arranging standard songs like public domain Christmas music?

A. Dan: Like any song I would arrange, I’d start with the melody. This is the most recognizable part of the song and I would leave this in tact as much as possible (with slight rhythmic variation). Then I would start reharmonizing the melody from scratch to see what I could come up with, and maybe alter the feel and tempo.

A. JPM: My main goal for the songs that I was arranging, was to try to achieve a different feel/style approach on each song. This was a great challenge as much of the Christmas catalog has been recorded and documented countless times over the last hundred years. I explored re-harmonization and tried to add a slightly unexpected feel to the song. By the nature of us playing in a duo setting, I knew it was automatically going to be different as we didn’t have a lot of production and other players to rely on. The duo setting set some arrangements in motion and the music mostly dictated what was required from us. Playing in a duo setting and this recording is one of the most challenging recording projects I’ve ever undertaken.

Q. There is a large catalog of Christmas music available. How did you decide on the final list of tunes that were recorded for this project?

A. Dan: Joseph and I each picked around 10 tunes that we wanted to play for this project. The tunes that I brought were more or less simple arrangements that I play on certain gigs during the holidays. Josephs arrangements were much more elaborate and creative in my opinion. My favorite one that he arranged is “We Three Kings”.

A. JPM: I have several Christmas songbooks. I spent about three weeks playing every Christmas song known to man. I made a list of all the songs that really appealed to me or those songs that I felt could lend well in a duo setting. Once I had my master list of tunes, I narrowed it down and picked about half of the tunes on the recording and started re-arranging them.

Q. Dan, what is the most important bit of advice you could give to new guitarist players?

A. Listen to as many different kinds of music artists you can. Go out and hear it live as this is an aural art form and it is learned by ear. Find what you like and learn it note for note. Listen to it, play it, understand it, assimilate it and love it. I also suggest taking lessons. A good teacher can add structure to your practice routine and they can help you overcome your weaknesses as well as a great source of inspiration. Find every resource you can about music and guitar. Study it and learn how to be your own teacher.

Q. Joseph, what is the most important bit of advice you could give to new double bass players?

A. Find a teacher and study privately. Develop good habits from the beginning. Listen and learn to read music.

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

A. Dan: Rock on!

A. JPM: 1/20/09-Ho, Ho, Ho!



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