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: Basil Fearrington
Bands & Artists: Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, Mtume, Reggie Lucas, Michael Urbaniak, Grover Washington Jr., Solo artist
Home: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
For the most part, I’ve been working on my next record. The rsponse to the first one, Kameerijano: Looking Straight Ahead, has been positive experience, giving me a lot of inspiration and encouragement. I’ve done a fair share of virtual sessions, adding bass to people’s tracks. And, I’m a bit of a health nut. I’ve been studying herbs and more in the world of how food affects the body.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
A someone who started on bass in 1969, my basic tenet is to make sure I play the instrument on the regular. I’ll do exercises for each hand. For example, with my fretting hand, I’ll place my third finger on the G on the E string and my pinky on the G#, and I’ll go across the fretboard in fourths, up and down—G-G#, C-C#, F-F#, Bb-B—and work my way up the neck. My pinky on that hand, for some reason, has always been weaker than the others. In addition, I practice solo improvisation and I transpose greats like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock to learn what they’re doing. In my value system, bass players who can solo through changes like Parker are at the head of the line.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
My player has 53 gigabytes of extremely varied music on it. That said, we all have our go-to music for comfort. For me, it’s going back to the ’60s and ’70s, which were a power-packed time in the development of the bass guitar. My main guys are Anthony Jackson and James Jamerson. For both Anthony and me, Jamerson’s best work was done on the Diana Ross & the Supremes album, Love Child. When I met Anthony, he told me to get the album and learn every note Jamerson played, and it continues to inspire me. Then there’s the album Anthony recorded with Michael Urbaniak called, Fusion III. I had to learn those tunes when Anthony passed the gig on to me, so listening to it is nostalgic and educational. The studio half of James Brown’s Sex Machine double-album, with Bootsy Collins on bass, is an encyclopedia of grooves. Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters album, especially the tune “Sly,” with Paul Jackson on bass, is one of my all-time favoirites. On the contemporary side, I like Avashai Cohen’s albums Gently Disturbed and Seven Seas, as a fan of eastern fusion and odd meters. And I really like Hadrien Feraud, he’s very musical and can play anything.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve been focused mostly on recording gear. I’m a DAW [digital audio workstation] head, so I am constantly checking out plugins. I’ve owned the same two basses for a good while. In 1997, Anthony Jackson, a close friend, gave me a Fodera contrabass guitar. It was the sixth one they made for him and it’s fantastic. I also have a Sire V7 for 4-string work.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
Health concerns have been front and center during the pandemic. There’s a lot people don’t know about how the body works, what truly makes you sick, and so on. If you’re interested in being educated, find everything you can on Dr. Sebi. Start by reading about his defeat of the New York State Supreme Court. I’m an Admin of three Facebook pages in his honor, and I can’t begin to tell you how he has impacted my life, health-wise, and the lives of hundreds of others.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’ll continue to work on my next record. I’m also a producer. I was fortunate to have worked on a production team with ex-Miles Davis band members, Mtume and the late Reggie Lucas. We had a four-year run that turned out a Grammy and seven or eight gold and platinum releases. That was a turning point for me. I became more focused on music as a whole, as opposed to being strictly bass-centered. I enjoy arranging, composing, producing—the whole spectrum. So I will continue to look for talented players to produce.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Use this time to work out your imperfections and strengthen what you are weak in, whether that’s musically, technically, or stylistically. You want to be in a position where you can play any genre you’re called for. If you’re a strong groove player and not as strong of a soloist, look to even that out. Play along with records to strengthen your game. Add something new to your skills package. Look at this as a time when you are in “school,” studying to become a better, more confidant player.
Read all 180+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi