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: Orlando le Fleming
Bands & Artists: Jane Monheit, Joey Calderazzo, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Wayne Krantz, Romantic Funk
Home: Brooklyn, New York
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Amidst homeschooling—or at least attempting to—my kids and trying not to annoy my wife, I have been doing daily online bass classes covering lots of different topics [link below]. It has been genuinely fun and therapeutic to connect with people from around the world. The classes are intimate—a maximum of seven people—and very affordable, as most of my students are out of work musicians like myself. Also, I try to exercise regularly, which keeps my brain active and my conscience clear from all the wine I’m drinking.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
On the upright bass, I’m aware of my fingers getting lazy and out of shape, so I might try some intonation and sound exercises—like left-hand hammer-ons and double-stops. Fortunately, the classes I've been teaching have forced me to play everyday, and make sure I can practice what I preach! I also try to just play some music on my bass, as if I am performing for an audience, whether it’s written or improvised.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Since the lock down there have been various musicians doing online live concerts. The two that have stood out so far have been a duo concert by [vocalist] Cécile Mclorin Salvant and [pianist] Sullivan Fortner—simply amazing chemistry between them. Also the wonderful pianist Kevin Hays has given two sublime concerts. I would checkout their Facebook pages for future concerts. A singer-songwriter friend, Jake Sherman, has released a brand new album that I'm listening too right now; lovely music with nice harmonies. My good friend Lage Lund has been putting up amazing video montages of his homeschooling topics along with his wonderful, original guitar music. While revisiting some Ellis Marsalis (who unfortunately just passed away from the virus), I have rediscovered one of my early influences on upright: Reginald Veal. He’s a really swinging, soulful player who was prominent with all the Marsalis’s in the 1990s. I’m also inspired by all the passion and pro-activity of artists in self isolation, its truly amazing.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I love my Moollon J Classic 4 string, which I got in January. I also recently had a new fingerboard put on my German upright and it feels and sounds beautiful, thanks to luthier Zach Lane here in Brooklyn.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I recommend staying away from most of the news and opinions—everyone has an opinion! I've been watching a lot of comedy, especially of the British variety: Stath Lets Flats, The Office, and Peep Show. I recommend the 7-minute workout app which is thorough and obviously very brief. A friend of mine gave me the book, “The Mysticism of Sound and Music,” by Inayat Khan, which I am enjoying and learning to understand the world and music from a more eastern perspective.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I was very lucky to record a new album in January, and hopefully I’ll be releasing it this summer on Whirlwind Records. It features Will Vinson, Philip Dizack, Sean Wayland, Kush Abadey, and Nate Wood. I was absolutely thrilled how my music turned out, and I'm currently working on mixing it remotely with John Davis at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn. I also have plans to write a second bass book involving more advanced rhythmic concepts.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Stay away from too much news. Embrace all this wonderful output from your fellow artists. Reconnect with people from your childhood and speak more regularly with friends and family. Give yourself a chance to be inspired. Now the the world has stopped and everyone has more of your attention, write and release your own music, if you can. Watch some comedy, and don't dwell onunhelpful information and people who fetishize complaining.