If you're not a bass player, you probably can skip reading this entirely. Listening to a new track posted by a new band called The Shift with Nick Cassarino on guitar and Ben Geis on bass, I started thinking about an idea I wanted to throw up here. The track:
Ben Geis might not be a household name, and his playing on this track is relatively simple, but so effective. The part that really stands out to me (and why I prefaced this with a warning about true bass geekery) is his great decisions regarding note duration - when to hold out a note, when to play short, clipped notes - even if he's just pedaling the root of the chord, it really contributes to the vibe of the song. Which made me think of this track:
The recently Grammy winning, newest Daft Punk album has this incredible song on it (along with a bunch of other gems). James Genus and Nathan East are both credited for the bass part, and my random guess would be the former. The stand out thing about the playing, besides the absolutely gorgeous and perfect bass tone, is how much room there is! So many players would try and fill that space up and it takes a huge amount of restraint to leave all this room. The even crazier thing is how he (whichever 'he' that is) manages to keep this funky, bubbling 16th note pulse going the whole time, while the drums are really only playing half that. Such a cool vibe. Tons of stuff to practice here!
I've been a big fan of Ben Allison for almost a decade. His playing is great, his albums are always fun and listenable with great writing and excellent personnel. Outside of recordings, his shows are always interesting. He did a night of Neil Young tunes at MOMA (which I wish was recorded, "Cinnamon Girl" was amazing). For a few months he had a series of pick up gigs at some hookah bar on the Lower East Side with new players each gig that was a lot of fun. I assume he was looking for new talent to play with for upcoming recordings, it was right before his last one, Action Refraction had come out.
One of my favorite moments ever on recording is Ron Horton's solo on Language of Love off of Little Things Run the World. Certain players have this magic of being able to lift a tune or the entire band into another stratosphere. The pianist Gary Versace always is a great example of this, instead of just blowing over changes the entire time, he will throw out these pieces that everybody in the band can latch onto and expand upon, transforming the feel of the tune and making everything evolve in a wonderful organic fashion.
Brandon Seabrook is the star of this album. A phenomenal guitar player, he also plays shred banjo in his own group, Seabrook Power Plant. Throughout The Stars Look Very Different Today, Brandon has no problem throwing out string scrapes, delayed figures, dissonant little nuggets that transform a fun and nice tune into something completely different. Even when he's playing more inside, like on the song The Ballad of Joe Buck, his playing is beautiful. The beautiful descending quick-banjo-picking phrase near the end of his solo fits so well and really works perfectly.
Make no mistake, the rest of the band is just as great, Steve Cardenas is a monster and has played with Allison for a long time. Drummer Allison Miller is fantastic as well, and brings a different feel compared to Rudy Royston, who played on the most recent few recordings from Ben Allison. Enjoy!