Bass playing, like riding a bike…

Yesterday was the first rehearsal for the London Jazz Festival gig that I’m doing on Nov 24th with Corey Mwamba. I played with Corey years ago at a gig in Derby and we’ve been trying to find a way to play together again since then, so when he asked me to do this gig, I said yes straight away. However, the first time we played together it was all improv (my forte). This time, it’s REALLY heavily written stuff, Corey’s own marvellous, dense, polytonal, odd-meter compositions. Definitely the toughest music I’ve played for a very long time.

I can’t remember the last time I had a heavy reading gig – probably depping on a pantomime about 7 years ago… but at least that stuff had each of the musicians playing in the same key, and the same time signature as the drummer… this stuff is way deeper.

Anyway, I’d glanced at the sheet music a few weeks ago, but had woefully underestimated how tough it was going to be, so when I had a play through on Tuesday, I was pretty certain that at Wednesday’s rehearsal I was going to be rather shit.

Fortunately, I’d also underestimated my own wikkid skillz, and found the stuff much easier than I’d thought. (‘Easy’ definitely being a relative term here…) I got through most of it just fine, and managed to read some of the bits that apparently none of the other bassists who’ve played this music have got right.

A few things helped immensely that are pertinent here for anyone dealing with learning tunes on gigs.

firstly, the rest of the musicians were not only hugely talented but really lovely people. Robert Mitchell on piano, Deborah Jordan on vocals, Shaney Forbes on drums and Corey himself on vibes are all amazing players, great improvisors and delightful people. The aim of everyone was to encourage eachother to get the best out of the music. This has been my experience in EVERY situation I’ve been in like this. At one college I used to teach at, the owner of said college once had a go at me for not giving the students enough of a ‘roasting’ (a very unfortunate term given some of the stories about the antics of certain sporting icons at the time…) – meaning make it tough for them, give them a hard time etc. His reasoning was that that’s what it’s like in ‘the real world’ so was what they needed to be prepared for. Bollocks. It’s never happened to me. Learning to deal with antisocial misanthropic losers isn’t what one should be learning at music college. Developing a love for music and a passion for creativity as well as an understanding of the mechanics of music, a deeper knowledge of the history, of style, of nuance… getting a hard time from the staff is a really stupid idea (especially given that the person who said this time me hadn’t done a proper gig in years, if ever, so was speaking out of no experience whatsoever…)

Secondly, the rehearsal was staggered – it started with just Corey, me and Shaney, working on the rhythm section stuff. It gave Shaney and I a chance to get used to eachother’s playing, and as Deborah and Robert had played the music before, they weren’t sat around getting bored while we learned parts.

Thirdly, Corey was all about making great music – he was open to suggestions, very vocal when he was happy with what was happening, and we were all smiling and enjoying ourselves with it. Deadly serious about having fun.

All in, it was a great day, I realised that I’m a better musician that I thought I was, and learnt some new skills too, played some deep challenging and beautiful music with amazing musicians. What more could we want?

We’ve got another rehearsal next week, and then the gig on the freestage at the Barbican on Nov 24th, at 2.30pm… be there! :o)

One Reply to “Bass playing, like riding a bike…”

  1. As I’m free that day, I shall have to see if I can get down, it sounds like a good gig.

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