As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.
Bass Player: Al Turner
Bands & Artists: Earl Klugh (musical director/bassist for 26 years), Kem (musical director/bassist for 15 years), Bob James, Will Downing, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Cheryl Lynn, Solo artist
Home: Bear, Delaware
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
In these uncertain times of a pandemic and social injustice, keeping a positive attitude is extremely important. I start my day with prayer and meditation, and reading Gods Word. Then I'll usually eat some breakfast and take a long walk—6 to 8 miles—in the park. Walking is great exercise and helps to reduce stress. My wife loves to update things around the house, so I've done some painting and other projects. We also have weekly Zoom calls with family and friends. On the music side, I've recorded tracks here at home for Kem, Will Downing, and a few other artist’s upcoming records. Having the ability to record and share music with others all over the world via the internet is fantastic, but I do miss the interaction of live musicians in the same room making magic. Just like all of our other brothers and sisters in the music industry, I look forward to that day when we can return to the stage.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I usually start my practice routine by doing some sightreading to keep my eyes sharp. Then I’ll play through some standards. I’ve been focusing on my tone and sound more than ever. Also, I’ve been transcribing some great solos by John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I have always listened to a wide variety on music: jazz, gospel, R&B, classical, rock, and everything in-between. My playlist is long, but here are a few favorites: Bouncin’ with Dex, Dexter Gordon; Milestones, Miles Davis; Bad Benson, George Benson; Songs In The Key Of Life, Stevie Wonder; Spirit Of David, Fred Hammond; People, Jonathan McReynolds; Homecoming (Live), Chaka Khan. As for bassists, James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, Anthony Jackson, Abe Laboriel, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Nathan East, Freddie Washington, Alex Al—who is like my little brother, he grew up directly across the street from me back in Detroit—Richard Bona, John Patitucci, Melvin Davis, Paul Chambers, Christian McBride, Ray Brown, and Ron Carter are some of the players I listen to on a regular basis. I can get comfort and inspiration from so, so many great players.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
While recording, I’ve been using a Hazelrigg Industries VDI, Aguilar Tone Hammer, and Nordstand Starlifter. They all have different tonal characteristics and I'll make a choice depending on the song and bass that I use.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Studying Gods Word is paramount for me! With the current state of social distancing, we stay close to home. As I mentioned earlier, walking is my choice of exercise. I have watched a lot of Netflix lately, which I never have done in the past.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Like so many others, my 2020 calendar was totally shut down. I had tours serving as musical director/bassist with Kem and Cheryl Lynn, as well as some dates with my group A.R.T. When we’re able to get back out hopefully the tours will resume.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
The one thing that the world needs now more than ever is love. As musicians we are blessed to be able to provide some love though our gifts: music. Continue to pray for our world and one another.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi