England hasn’t produced that many solo bassists, or bassists who front their own instrumental bands under their own name. One of the few – one one of the finest in the world – is Mo Foster. Better known as a session player (Jeff Beck/Phil Collins/etc.), Mo has released a string of really really beautiful solo records, with his fretless bass as the primary melodic voice. He’s great. His last album, Time To Think is one of my all-time favourite bass-feature records.
Anyway, the reason for discussing Mo is that I found a cutting from an old copy of the sadly now defunct Making Music magazine. The cutting is a column that Mo wrote for them about session playing. Here’s an excerpt –
“There’s a certain mythology currently surrounding session work:
1 – It still exists as a career option
I’m afraid it doesn’t. The thrusting, vibrant scene of some years ago has, regrettably, gone. There’s still a fair amount of work around, but it’s almost entirely for artists and producers who happen to be friends – ie it’s very much ‘who you know’. Breaking in is harder than ever.
2 – You must be able to read music
It helps to read and is, on occasion, vital, but for many gigs you don’t necessarily need that particular skil. You must, though, be able to create a bassline from a chord chart and , in some cases, no chart at all – ie your musical ‘ear’ is everything.
3 – You mustn’t contribute ideas to a song but just play the written part
This is nonsense: it’s quite possible both the producer and the artist haven’t a clue what bass does or how it does it and are desperate for your expert input. Een a written line should be scrutinised in case you can improv on it.”
Wise words indeed. Certainly true in my case – all the session work I’ve had has been through friends and chance encounters, not some marvellous mythological network of agencies and management.by