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: Jon Thorne
Bands & Artists: Lamb, Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, Kathryn Williams
Home: West Cowes, Isle Of Wight, England
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Home schooling my 8-year-old. Setting up Two Tree Music, a Bandcamp record label. Studying harmony. Listening to a lot of jazz. Practicing bass. Doing online teaching and remote recording sessions. Finishing a musical commission composing to birdsong. Observing a strict diet and health regime. And doing a lot of socially-distanced sea swimming.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been tightening up right- and left-hand technique. Working on position shifting and bowing. Superimposing different pentatonic scales over chords. Improvising using triad pairs. Playing scales, arpeggios, and melodies up and down a single string.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Miles Davis albums from 1964-1974. Blue Note Rare Groove Series artists such as Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith, Donald Byrd, Duke Pearson, Grant Green, and Big John Patton. Plus records by David Sylvian with Holgar Czukay, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, and Donny Hathaway. And I’ve been listening to bassists like John Patitucci, Larry Grenadier, Eberhard Weber, Willie Weeks, and Francis “Rocco” Prestia.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I purchased a new, maple-neck Fender American Pro Precision Bass. It’s a magnificent instrument, combining classic design with new innovations, and I’m loving discovering its treasures. I’ve taken this time to go through different string setups on my Pollmann double bass. I’ve found a great combination: Spiricore medium E and A strings, and D’Addario Zyex Medium D and G strings. It’s drawing a deeper sound from the bass and the tension is perfect.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’m reading Pete Paephides’ autobiography, Broken Greek, Neil Gaiman’s Absolute Sandman, Charles Bukowski’s What Matters Most Is How You Walk Through The Fire, and the health-related books Meditation as Medicine, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, and Chi Kung: The Way Of Energy, by Kam Chuen Lam. Watched movies include Wings Of Desire, The Seventh Seal, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Grand Budapest Hotel, and both Blade Runner films. I’m using an app called Yoga for a twice daily workout routine, as well as the HASfit YouTube channel for daily routines with weights.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’ll go to London to finish recording and production on the second album by The Strangest Of Times in London. I hope to recommence touring the with Yorkston/Thorne/Khan in support of our most recent album, Navarasa: Nine Emotions. I’ll do some rescheduled gigs with Lamb, and as many local jazz gigs as I can get. I’m also preparing to re-release my albums Homestead and Watching The Well through Two Tree Music, as I have got back the rights to them.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Your mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. Discipline with health, both diet and exercise, feeds directly into positive work on your musicianship. Identify the weaker areas of your playing and focus in on them without distraction. Hard work brings a real and lasting sense of achievement. Make sure, however, that you enjoy the process as much as the results, and avoid being too self critical. It’s a difficult time, be kind to yourself. Use it to plan effectively, clearly identify your goals, and go all out for them. Bask in the sheer joy of music and its expression. Remember, you are the instrument, not the bass, and your imagination isn’t limited by your technique.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi