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: Verdine White
Bands & Artists: Earth, Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Deniece Williams, The Emotions, Brian McKnight, Jennifer Lopez, Raphael Saadiq, Solange, Flo Rida, Kelly Clarkson
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been doing Zoom meetings and some public service announcements. I did a Zoom recording session with DJ Cassidy. The band [Earth, Wind & Fire] has been hanging out online. My wife Shelly and I have our home routine together. It’s a new experience for all of us, and we’ve been figuring it out as we go.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve always had a daily playing routine—maybe an hour at night and then get up to catch a plane. Now I’ve upped the ante on that, playing two-to-two-and-a-half hours. The goal is to stay in gig shape for our two-to-three hour sets. I’m also doing my physical workouts with my personal trainer, via Facetime.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
There’s such a broad amount of good music that has come out of late, in all genres, from veteran and young artists—everything is happening right now. It’s almost like there’s no such thing as “new” music anymore; it’s all just music, and I enjoy immersing myself in it. There’s also going back to revisit music from your youth and discovering “new” music by those artists that eluded you at the time. One classic I’ve been digging into is Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. Between the quiet right now and all the music I’ve listened to and learned from since it came out, I can hear it better now.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve got all of my Sadowskys at home with me, and a small Ampeg amp. Not too long before the lockdown, Carlitos Del Puerto came over to have lunch and jam. He had his upright, so I broke out my antique, French-made acoustic bass that I’ve had for 40 years. It has a lion’s head on the scroll, which I wanted at the time because Richard Davis had a bass with a lion’s head scroll—he still owns it.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve been reading Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man, by Howard Pollack, which is excellent. I enjoyed Miles Davis: Birth of Cool, and I’ve been watching the fantastic series, Hip-Hop Evolution, both on Netflix.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Along with [producer] Neal Pogue and [EWF drummer] John Paris, I’ve been working on music for a great artist named Mj Rodriguez. She’s best known for playing Blanca on the TV drama, Pose. I’m executive producing—along with Neal, who is producing—a great group from Montreal called Busty and the Bass. And hopefully Earth, Wind & Fire will get back on the road soon. Everyone has been reminding us that it’s our 50th year, which we were going to give some thought to, but right now it’s all about living and staying safe.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Stay positive and stay safe. That can be difficult right now, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. When this is over, I think we’ll have more empathy and compassion for each other. We’ll be more focused than ever in our lives and work, and we won’t take anything for granted. That’s the lesson here. It’s time to walk the walk as individuals and come out of this better, as a whole.
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi