Basspiration Wednesday – 11/12/2014

A blast of piano trio magic from Hiromi, drummer Simon Phillips, and bassist Anthony Jackson. I adore this trio and find what they do to be compelling and quite fresh.

Most of the great jazz piano trios consist of piano, drums, and upright bass. The Bill Evans trios with Scott LaFaro, Eddie Gomez, or Marc Johnson on upright bass. The Keith Jarrett trio with Gary Peacock on upright. The Brad Mehldau Trio with upright bassist Larry Grenadier. Hiromi has consistently used Jackson on electric bass in her trios. This is an inspired choice as an electric bass completely changes the dynamic of a piano trio. Of course, pairing an upright bass player with a drummer that plays as heavy as Simon Phillips makes little sense.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my first exposure to Anthony Jackson’s bass playing was on the hit song “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays as Jackson provided the tune’s iconic opening bass riff. After I took up the guitar in the early 1980s, I fell in love with Jackson’s bass playing on the Al Di Meola album Tour De Force – “Live and later his playing on Di Meola’s classic Elegant Gypsy. Jackson’s interplay with drummer Steve Gadd on the tune “Flight Over Rio” from the latter album is particularly sublime. Jackson has also appeared as a member of two other celebrated piano trios, one with Michel Camilo and the other with the late Michel Petrucciani.

Jackson has been a tireless advocate for the electric bass as a viable instrument in its own right; not just as a lesser, inferior instrument for musicians that “can’t cut it” on the upright. He was also one of the visionaries behind and early adopters of the 6-string electric bass. He is articulate (even prickly) in print, wears his opinions on his sleeve, and is my top choice for “musician I wish would one day write an autobiography.” On top of all of that, he has some of the best “bass faces” in the music biz, several of which are captured in the above video.

This Hiromi video is the only one I have found of Jackson using his Fodera Presentation II contrabass guitar. You can read more about the instrument here. Keep in mind as you listen to this performance that Jackson is playing a custom-built instrument with an MSRP of $35,000. If you want the top-of-the-line instrument from Fodera, that experience ain’t gonna come cheap.

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