June 20, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Jimmy Haslip: Music is a life force: Photos, Video

Jazz interview with bass guitarist Jimmy Haslip. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Jimmy Haslip: – I was born in the Bronx and grew up on Long Island … Huntington, Long Island until I was basically 18 going on 19 years old.

I learned to play the trumpet in the 3rd grade and from that point on played brass instrument until I was 18 playing in Jazz band, concert bands and drum and bugle corps.

I was also involved with school choir groups and played in cover bands from 7th grade on which is when I picked up the electric bass for fun.

I grew up in a household that was always filled with music.   My parents loved to dance and listened to a lot of big band and popular music like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Jackie Gleason, Montovani, Bert Kaempfert ect and lots of Latin Music like Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barreto, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Johnnie Pacheco and Willie Colon to name a few.

My older brother Gabriel was listening to Jazz and Classical . .  so I was exposed to everything from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Colman, Dave Bruebeck to Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Mozart, Brahms and Bartok to name a few . . .

Then there was my aunt who lived with us . . she listen to a lot of music like Johnny Mathis, Jerry Vale, Robert Goulet and Andy Williams to name a few.

I was also listen to everything from Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull to all the Motown music and popular R&B music of the 60’s … Temptation, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas to Wilson Picket, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Ray Charles to name just a few.

Quite a bit of music around to be inspire by . .   I also got to see most of these artists live in NYC at the Filmore East, The Academy of Music, Madison Square Garden, the Village Jazz clubs like the Village Gate, Folk City and the Village Vanguard . . .

Ithe 1960’s into the early 70’s was a renaissance in Music History and incredibly motivating for a young aspiring musician like myself.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JH: – That’s a tough question … I, as anyone else would have a sound in their head.  the way they hear things and you strive to find that sound by playing different instruments, in my case different electric bass guitars.

Or it can even simply be the sound that naturally comes out in combination with your finger tips and how you pick the strings …   then adding gear …  amplifiers, speaker cabinets, strings, guitars, possibly some effects … to focus that natural sound.

My goal has always been to create a strong and deep foundation … groove, time and big bass sound sometimes even emulating an organ/B3 bass sound … I’ve always been a fan of the string bass …  although I don’t play that instrument at all . .  It’s a sound Ive always been connected to.

With all that. It’s those types of things that inspire me and I use them to create my sonic voice on the instruments I play Live or in the studio.

James Jamerson Sr., Jimmy McGriff and Milt Hinton are all combined to inspire the sound I aspire to.

It’s always a work in progress but working with TRICKFISH amplification and using their speaker cabinet … Working with DUNLOP strings and effects … and Having instruments from ROSCOE GUITARS, MTD and INNERWOOD really have help me to create a sound that at this point is focus and consistent …

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

JH: – My goal is to practice at least 3 hours per day … But depending on scheduling with production work, coordination, sessions, travel and live performance and most importantly my family, practice scheduling can be challenging … I have been producing 10 to 12 project a year for the last 6 years and prior to that I was in the Yellowjackets ensemble for 32 years with challenging schedules and multiple projects to organize and appropriate.

I find more time to practice with I am traveling but now that consists of maybe 3 months out of a year … The rest of the time I’m here at hime in Los Angeles and there are always many distractions that need attention. So I squeeze in as much practicing as possible.

For the last several years I’ve been working mostly on harmony and improvisational exercises.

I’ve been playing with several bands and having to improvise considerably with most all the various repertoires so right there you have a pile of material to work with and study.

Studying songs and concentrating on the harmony of the songs provides a mountain of information and knowledge to work on and this in itself is a positive way to practice and get a lot accomplished in the process.

I also listen to a lot of music and find things like guitar and horn solos that I like to study.

There is so much to draw from …

As far as rhythm goes … I listen to quite a bit of ethnic music and challenging odd metered music to continue the quest in being comfortable with unusual time signatures.

I had a lot of practice over the years in performing with Yellowjackets, Allan Holdsworth and more recently Oz Noy and guitarist Jeff Richman. I love funk and R&B music which the Jeff Lorber Fusion is steeped in and I’ve now been co-producing, recording and performing live with that band over the last 9 years or so.

Having all this work in front of me is motivating and continues to push my envelope at a growing musician and producer.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

JH: – I have many particular pattern, melodic patterns and phrasing that has become a large part of my voice and vocabulary, but I always searching to find new patterns and new ways of playing scales, and new patterns. This is a life’s work and will continue from this point on!

Its a never ending search and study for me and it’s been going on since I started playing the electric bass in 1963.

As far as what I’m Judiciuosly doing when performing,  it’s really more about emotion, expression and stream of thought when focused on what I would like to express.

It’s also not 100% accurate but the satisfaction comes from at least the attempt and execution of what can be expressed.

In my case, I’m on an infinite quest to continue to grow, to learn more about my abilities and how I can possibly improve upon that … to find an unconscious and deeper way of connecting my expression with the instrument and hopefully become a better musician, a better producer, a better improviser and a better person as a result of it all.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

JH: – Interesting question! I am influenced by everything I hear … Speeches on television, dialog in films, sound effects, street noise, … then theres visual influences, paintings, architecture, sculpture, fashion and of course there is all the music that’s being payed on radio, in my house and on youtube … ect.

All this and more, influences what I feel and how I feel on any particular day.

So it will effect what I do 100% of the time … and it’s all very good input.

It helps to create a mood, an emotion and It’s what I seriously feel to be important to a performance of an improvised moment of an expressive statement.

It’s the foundation of my creative relationship to music.

So I don’t think it’s necessary to prevent any influences in studying, composing or playing music … let alone any thoughts about Disparate Influences that may color anything I may be doing creatively … Any influences that have fertile progress or sheds a positive light on a performance is humbly welcomed here.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Jimmy Haslip, Scott Kinsey & Gergö Borlai – ARC Trio>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

JH: – I really enjoy collaboration and working with other musicians to create a body of work.

Working with Scott Kinsey and co-producing this recording was a joy and adding to that Gergo Borlai explosive … Also bringing in Gary Novak, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Tavaglione and Judd Miller brought all this music to life …

ARC TRIO came to life with these magical musicians and that in itself is what I loved about creating this project.

We are hopeful that we will be performing this music soon as a trio with Scoot, Gergo and myself …

Looking forward to that …

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JH: – I think its all about a personal choice in balance but would go with 50/50 especially if you are involved with complex music … you need to study and prepare for performing the music at hand …

However thats approached by an individual … preparation would be a necessity.

So with study and practice … Hopefully there is also instinctual elements of soulfulness and emotion are added to that and in combination you would possibly achieve a successful balance in a performance …

This can all be viewed differently in many different musical situations … This question can be answered in so many different ways and depending on the music and the interpretation.

So to be honest … It’s not really something I think about at all when I playing music … I just try to perform the music in front to best of my ability at all times.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

JH: – I really enjoy performing live for an audience and I Focus 110 % on performing the music as best that I can to give the audience joy and a sanctuary from their everyday life. Hopefully providing a breathe of fresh air for the 75-90 minutes of the concert.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

JH: – These memories are difficult and personal to openly reflect on here, but I can tell you that I have many outstanding memories that touched me deeply at times of in surmounting grief and stress for both me and fans that Ive had contact with over the years.

Moments that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JH: – Education! Nothing wrong with songs that are a half century old either …

Old standards are like reading an old novel … filled with extremely useful information and a good study towards becoming a better musician.

I’ve taught all over the world in colleges, universities, music schools, performed master classes in music stores.  maybe over 1,000 classes and I can tell you that there is interest and talent everywhere you go.

The problem as I see it is that funding for music programs in schools has dwindled and that is something to be concerned with …

Young musicians are everywhere and eager to learn … I’ve encountered it first hand … and I’m sure it will continue to be that way … It’s on e of my goals to help and support music education and there are incredible place to go and learn if thats your path …

Other than that there is definitely private lessons and there is insurmountable about of knowledge at one’s fingertips online and if you’re self motivated,  there’s nothing to stop you from following you heart and learning to become a better musician.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

JH: – Music is a life force and if you surrender to it it will become all consuming in your passion to study learn and excel as a musician, composer, performer.

You need to focus on experience in the connection of your instrument and your soul and your intellect.

Music is a deep and emotional expression that you really can’t physically touch   you can listen and feel … as a musician that feeling could go as deep as you allow it to connect.

With that you can deeply express your emotion and your deeper feelings and share those feelings with whomever is listening at that level …

So Deeper that that … Your question? What is the meaning of life?

I don’t have an answer for that really  … I can only say that that is an important question yet to be answered …

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

JH: – The music business …

I pine for a lot of what we had …

record stores and record companies and staff that actually really had a passion for the music and supported …

It wasn’t like that 100% but we still had that experience in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s …

I miss that !

I will add that there are still some companies and music executives around that continue to follow that sentiment … but it’s hardly a blip on the screen.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JH: – I listen to just about everything … But I mostly like listening to classic Rock, Classical music and iconic Jazz recording like KIND of BLUE  . . But I search around and find new and old recording all the time that are new to me and then there’s YOUTUBE … I find great video footage of performances from all the above … There’s so much music available … hard to keep up …

I continue to check out new music all the time … I have a 23 year old daughter that loves music and she turns me on to so much … It’s all fantastic!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

JH: – I would maybe enjoy seeing John Coltrane with Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones

in concert … Or the Miles Davis quintet with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams in concert all in the 60’s …

I missed out on some of that … I was checking out Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Cream live in concert at that time …

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

JH: – What kind of music do you like and support?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Of course, only Jazz and Blues!!!

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

JH: – I’m a Serious multitasker and have been working on numerous projects over the last 30 or so years simultaneously … In the last 6 years, producing 10-12 projects a year …

So it actually comes easy for me to,  as you say, harness all these things …

Recording projects, project coordination, practice time, writing/composing, teaching and study and preparedness for recording projects and / or live performances, travel, family life and sometimes even for leisure and R&R … Somehow, I find the balance and stay motivated to move forward.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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