The Brotherhood: From Willingboro to the World

How four lifelong bass friends exemplify community and perfection

The Brotherhood: From Willingboro to the World

How four lifelong bass friends exemplify community and perfection

Ever since the great Milt Hinton coined the phrase “the Brotherhood of the Bass,” the kinship between bass players has morphed in countless and wondrous ways. From the Manhattan Bass Amp Club formed by New York City session bassists (including Milt) in the ’60s, to the emergence of live bass events and camps in the ’90s, to the current global web-connectivity between like-minded thumpers, the community is strong and supportive. Within these countless connections — bonded by genre, geography, study, or “hang” — there is one group of players whose commitment to and support of each other is simply unparalleled, especially when it comes to their circumstance, successes, and ascension to the top of the music world.

You may or may not know their names and faces, but you undoubtedly know their output. Adam Blackstone, the CEO of BASSic Black Entertainment, went from key stints with Jill Scott, Justin Timberlake, The Roots, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Eminem, and numerous others to become the most in-demand musical director on planet Earth. That includes most recently MD-ing the Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars, BET Awards, and the high-profile Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedom. Derrick Hodge does it all: He’s a Blue Note solo artist whose latest acclaimed effort is Color of Noize; an in-demand doubler and MD whose credits include H.E.R., Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, Common, and Maxwell; and a much-sought-after composer/arranger/conductor, with recent orchestral roles in the Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammys, and the Juneteenth concert (not to mention his being featured on “Bass Night,” which capped Marcus Miller’s week-long spring run at the Blue Note New York). Thaddaeus Tribbett is a gospel legend and one of the most mimicked and borrowed-from bassists on YouTube. In addition to seminal work with his brother Tye Tribbett, Jill Scott, Black Lily, Justin Timberlake, Musiq, Conya Cross, and Q-Tip, his latest output includes an appearance on Robert Glasper’s Black Radio III, Tiny Desk Concerts with Chris Dave & the Drumhedz and Snoh Aalegra, and touring with Jon Batiste. Finally, Dwayne Moore is a hella-undersung pocket savant whose key recording credits include Gerald Levert, Fred Hammond, Jill Scott, Musiq, and Pharrell. He’s perhaps best known as Beck’s touring bassist, ever since his appearance on 2017’s Colors, and he has recently also hit the road with Lauryn Hill and with Seal, and he is working on a record with his own The Origin Band.

What you probably don’t know is that these four gentleman of the groove grew up together in the culturally rich community of Willingboro, New Jersey, located less than 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia (the official City of Brotherly Love). What welded their unique friendship after they all met in high school was abundantly apparent to us back in the dark days of the initial COVID lockdown, when we gathered them for a Zoom roundtable. Their uplifting and inspiring saga is the focus of this cover story.

Blackstone, Hodge, Moore, and Tribbett

Willing Brothers

Bass Magazine: Upon meeting in school, did you guys click right away?

Adam Blackstone

Adam Blackstone: I’m the outsider in some ways; I met Derrick and Thad first, in high school. They didn’t have a choice with me…I followed them everywhere! And then I was graciously mad at Dwayne because we definitely knew each other — actually since middle school — but I didn’t see Dwayne play the bass until I was 18 or 19. He was at a gig that I just happened to show up at, to chill. And I was like, That’s my guy from school! And he was the man there, in the house band; everyone knew him. This was at a club called the Five Spot in Philly, which is where Dwayne and I really developed. And I know when Derrick and Thad came in there, it was superstar status for them, too.

The other development spot for me was church. I didn’t get to play a lot of bass in church. My dad was an organist, and I played drums. We attended a very small church in Jersey where it was just organ and drums, or piano and drums. But church helped me cultivate the relationship — forget the bass — with these guys. It has a lot to do with our upbringing, the people around us encouraging us: You gotta meet this guy, you gotta come see Derrick play, or go see Tye and Thad, or go see Dwayne play. We were such fans of each other early on that we followed what each other was doing. That was so we could hang more than it was, Hey, let me play the bass with you.

BM: How much did church shape the rest of you as bass players and as people?

Derrick Hodge

Derrick Hodge: Oh, man, the reason I first picked up the bass was I wanted to be like our church bass player, Joel Ruffin, in West Philadelphia, on 50th and Spruce. We lived on 48th and Spruce before moving to New Jersey. He was incredible, and I came to find out later so many bassists loved his playing. He truly impacted me; I remember his sound. When we moved to Willingboro, I can’t say enough about Thad and Tye. They do not get the credit they deserve regarding the impact they had on me and so many others in terms of freedom, what’s possible, and, Why not go for it? My mom didn’t let me out much, so I would sit at home and listen to the radio, checking stuff out. I was in the orchestra, but my peers encouraging freedom was the key. We could try out stuff in church. It was unapologetically us, Black art. I think about my peers to this day whatever project I’m doing. I remember the first time I heard about Adam — he was a 13- or 14-year-old who was already respected on his instrument and as a leader. He was like a young musical director. No one made any of us; we just stuck with what our best was. Hey, why not forge a career doing this? Seeing the possibilities. Bass was the catalyst, but it was beyond bass; why not try it all?

Adam: For me, listening to Thad and Wayne infuse hip-hop, fusion, R&B, and jazz into the church choir music helped open up my ears. They were pushing the boundaries of what church bass lines could be and could do, both rhythmically and harmonically. One of the first Slum Village riffs I learned, for ten years I thought Thad invented it. I thought J Dilla stole this from Thaddy! I remember hearing Dwayne play, too, and thinking so-and-so stole this line from Dwayne. That just shows how on the cutting edge they were mixing their influences.

BM: Dwayne, did you first start playing bass in church, too?

Dwayne Moore

Dwayne Moore: Yes, I started at 13 or 14 years old, at my church, Rock of Ages in Camden, New Jersey. My dad played bass; he was the main bass player, and he was the man. Eugene Moore — they called him “Mean Gene” [the other three shout his name]. My whole childhood in church was seeing real players, so if you were gonna play you had to play, or you were out of there. The band was crazy, the choir was crazy. They won a lot of competitions. Then we moved and I started playing at a church in Philly called Ford Memorial. Andy Ford is the pastor, he’s the brother of gospel star Steven Ford.

BM: Thaddaeus, how did you start on bass, given your family’s connection to the church?

Thaddaeus Tribbett

Thaddaeus Tribbett: I actually started out on drums in church as a little boy; that was a fail. I moved to sax, and that was a fail. Finally, when I was 12, I was in the car one day with my father, who was the pastor at our church, and I announced that I wanted to play bass guitar. At this point he was probably sick of buying me instruments I failed at, so he said, “If you can sing the bass notes on the radio, then I’ll buy you a bass guitar!” He turned up the radio, I leaned forward and sang each note, and he was impressed! To this day, I still sing the bass notes, no matter the genre or artist I’m working with. Anyway, long story longer, I wasn’t good at bass at first, either, so I stopped playing for like a year. It wasn’t until my brother [Tye Tribbett] and Dana Sorey were making music at my parents’ house, jumping around on all the instruments, that I took notice. I heard them playing my bass, and I got so jealous I snatched it away from them and said, “This is my bass!” Thankfully, my brother curated me. I learned everything from him, and when I showed signs of my own creativity and ability to be innovative, he made me his musical director for the group we created [Tye Tribbett & G.A.]. And we play together in church to this day.

BM: Who were the bass and musician mentors for the rest of you?  

Adam: Derrick Hodge. I had never seen anybody play the bass like that, and still haven’t 30 years later. He’s it for me.

Hodge and Blackstone before performing at the Hollywood Bowl Juneteenth Concert

Dwayne: For me, it was Thaddaeus. My dad and I had our differences, so I moved out and went to stay with my brother Thaddaeus for a while. And I loved him so much, I wanted to do everything he did on bass. This is where you gotta have tough skin and accept criticism. Thad was like, “Stop playing like me!” I’m a teenager, doing all his stuff. That’s the best thing he could have ever told me; it changed my life. That’s when I started working on my own sound. Even if I heard something he did, I would learn it but make it my own. Because we’re gonna influence each other and learn from each other. So, my biggest influence is Thaddeus.

Thaddaeus: I’m glad you said that, because the truth is even though you were younger than me, and living with me, and we were ’shedding, I saw that you had an incredible gift within you that I wanted to learn from. I realized if you only played my stuff, it was simply because I was older than you, and it wouldn’t lead you to your own style. I knew if you were given the chance or the platform that I could definitely learn things from you. And you wouldn’t have to limit yourself to what I was doing. I feel the same way: These guys are my biggest influence. We all went to high school together, and periodically we would skip lunch and go to the band room and start playing, jamming. I remember Derrick showed me how to hold the upright bass correctly, how to play arco, how to read, and other things. So I definitely wouldn’t be the musician I am today without these three gentlemen. That’s a lesson for folks reading this: Don’t miss out on the people who are in your circle right now.

Hodge and Tribbett

Derrick: Creatively and unapologetically, the three people with me here are the ones who most impacted me as a musician and from the bass perspective. Thad’s right, I can’t say enough about valuing your circle. Also for me it was Jaco, Marcus Miller, John Patitucci, Victor Wooten. I heard them all for the first time in one night when Thad’s cousin Jason Nelson laid a cassette he had of all those guys. That changed my life in one night! I started shedding ’round the clock and hearing more recordings while walking home with Thad. If I’m honest with myself, we can all name-drop the incredible musical minds we’ve met and worked with later in life, but the genesis of my voice was developed as a teenager. I learned fearlessness from my best friend, Thaddaeus. I’m still learning from them to this day, when I see how they fearlessly throw themselves into any situation and are willing to trust their work ethic. It still inspires me and informs my decision-making. I couldn’t write, score, and orchestrate music back then, but they gave me the mindset of, Well, why shouldn’t you? So I started writing scores and sending them around to people all over the country, and fortunately some hit me back. Another key is how we never abandon each other, how we treat people. That’s all a part of who I am as I deal with other musicians. Now it’s amazing to hear John Patitucci laugh when I tell him our story, and how we were all checking him out together. He couldn’t believe it, because he was just learning a Tye Tribbett record, and he said to please say hi to Thad. The same thing with Marcus Miller — he was surprised when I told him our story, and how we went to school on him.

Adam: To add to my previous answer and give context, I want to say that we listened to Jaco, Marcus, and Patitucci coming up, and I was way into Ron Carter. But the first time I heard a Jaco lick, Thaddaeus played it! I remember hearing his band play “Continuum,” and I’m thinking, “They made that up!” [Laughs all around.] That got me to go back and explore Jaco and where it all came from. The same thing with hearing Dwayne at a club playing a J Dilla groove or a Pino [Palladino] lick, and I’m thinking, “That’s my boy! Time to go back and learn the roots of that stuff.” But to this day, that’s how I think when I create music: What would my guys do here? Or, how can I infuse what has influenced me? Over the top of a pop record, I might want to put some old-school gospel licks, or I might want to put some fusion stuff on a pop ballad. I’m always thinking about how I saw these guys push the envelope back in the day.

Willingboro, New Jersey

BM: How did growing up in the community of Willingboro inspire all of you?

Adam: I think, as a rule, what breeds good talent is the surroundings. The people around us growing up in Willingboro were very affluent African Americans, not just in music but in business, in education, and in politics. We just happened to choose the arts, and everybody’s families and friends pushed and supported us to be the best we can be, and in turn, we were able to push each other.

Derrick: I can’t say enough about how big of an impact Willingboro had on me growing up. I remember when I was six and had just started on guitar because the bass was too big for my body, there was this nine- or ten-year-old in Garfield East Elementary School that they allowed to do a solo drum performance. It was Thad’s older brother Tye! He just grabbed a concert bass drum and a snare, and starting playing for five minutes, and blew us all away. That has stayed with me ever since — that feeling of freedom and acceptance, and drawing directly from those right around me. That’s a huge influence, as are my brothers here with me. Honestly I think our stories are connected in a way where we felt like we were each other’s small community of acceptance, no matter what. It was iron-sharpening and doing your best, and never allowing yourself to be outworked. That was the energy and spirit we grew up with.

Dwayne: I agree with Derrick — there was a brotherhood forged in Willingboro, like how we pushed each other. When you feel like you’re all brothers, you can take criticism. That’s what we do; if something ain’t right, we’re gonna tell each other: Yo, do this, do that. Or, You should try this or that. Whereas in a lot of other towns or groups of people, I don’t know if you can do that. People get hurt feelings. But with us, like Derrick said, iron strengthens iron. None of us are sensitive, we love each other, and we learned a lot from each other.

BM: Who among you got the first big gig?

Derrick: It was Thad — he was the first one playing on records. [All agree.]

Adam: I saw Derrick on The Chris Rock Show with Jill Scott — a big moment for me. Seeing Thad on Bobby Jones Gospel or Celebration of Gospel, both on BET, that was amazing.

Derrick: Adam on Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, phew!

Thaddaeus: I remember in high school, Adam was always doing the big concert-band moments.

Adam: I got that confidence from Derrick, though. They would make the announcement in school, “It is the week of SATs, and Derrick Hodge has won the High School Jazz Festival Best Soloist Award.” I was like, That’s something I have to strive for — I can’t be in a band and not do that. We influenced each other so many ways. I remember Wayne on the Floetry DVD [Floacism: Live, 2006, DreamWorks]; that was super crazy. I remember buying a Bishop David G. Evans record [Abundant Harvest Choir, Work While It’s Day, 1994, Sweet Rain] and Derrick was on it.

Hodge at an early session with James Poyser

Derrick: That was the first album I did, and it was the first time I met James Poyser; I was 14. The only reason I was at the rehearsal for that recording was to give Thad’s brother a ride. I happened to bring my bass — my mom even said to me, “Why are you bringing your bass? They hired somebody.” The bass player on the session was Jethaniel Nixon, who was hero of mine at that time, and he actually shared knowledge with me and allowed me to play. It was huge for me watching James at that rehearsal. He was studying with [jazz pianist] Cyrus Chestnut at the time, and I could hear James using some unique voicings that were beyond what other cats were doing in gospel. I exchanged numbers with him that day and that’s how I ended up on the record. I also remember me and Thad checking out Hezekiah Walker’s album Live in New York: By Any Means…[1997, Sony] and listening intently to Reggie Parker’s note choices on bass. We did that with Ron Carter, too. Just checking out stuff while walking to school every day, and figuring out how to listen.

Adam: These three guys put me onto my first big gig, with Jill Scott. Derrick was doing Jill’s band, and he left and Thad did it. Because of that, Thad put me in his place in his brother’s band, and when I left, I moved over to Jill’s band. Meanwhile, Dwayne was demolishing the city of Philadelphia, so when I left Jill, I was able to get Dwayne to take my place in her band. We always knew we wouldn’t let each other down; we knew each other’s skill level and commitment to the music. When I work with musicians in other cities, sometimes I get the sense that they’re afraid to lose their gig. I’ve always been the guy who says when I have to send a sub, I want someone as good or better than me, so the artist knows I care about them and their music. That always gets me the callback. Even if they want to keep the bassist I sent in, they’ll ask if I can help them put the music together, or have a role in the recording and mixing. So that has been a key part of my career. I’m known for caring about the artist. I’m not available for every gig, but my brothers here are my first call, because I know the artist is going to be as happy or happier than they are with me, which in turn makes me look good.

Blackstone performing with Jill Scott [2007]:

Dwayne: And I hate playing gigs after you all. Hate it! That’s tough, a high bar. [Laughs all around.]

Adam: On the studio side, I remember camping out like a fly on the wall at The Room, a studio fixture on the Philly scene run by Larry Gold, where The Roots and James Poyser had rooms. One of the big breaks came for me because Pino’s flight was delayed and I happened to be there. So Ahmir [Questlove] and James [Poyser] let me play on an Eryka Badu track, which Pino replaced when he got there. But it was a key lesson learned. I had this 6-string fusion type of bass, and James said, “Please don’t ever bring that bass back to the studio. I want you to listen to as much James Jamerson and Pino as you can, and if you can’t get this bass to sound like them, go and get a bass that does.” At the time I was trying to sound like and be like Oteil Burbridge, and eventually join the Allman Brothers! When that didn’t work out, I was fortunate that my mentors told me to round myself out and be versatile, get a Fender, try flatwounds. That may have discouraged some cats, but it opened my eyes and ears and put me on a whole different path. It also made me more driven.

Derrick: Shout out and love to James and Ahmir. With them, you were forced to listen to a lot of music, and I can’t think of anyone who has listened to more music than Ahmir. And James was the one who challenged you to implement all that music. They were the two key guys on that scene. James pulled in all the church cats who weren’t attuned to the sound of The Roots yet. We’d go check them out at the Five Spot, which is where people from different spaces would come together to play. I was in Latin bands while I was in college because Thad had all the gigs, and that was considered to be cool. I give the Philly scene credit on that front: hybrid was welcomed.

Adam: It’s still like that with us now: Yo, have you heard this old Chick [Corea] record? Or have you checked out the new MonoNeon? We still send each other music to open each other up.

Tools of the Trade

BM: How do you prepare for a gig as a sideman?

Dwayne: For me, the most important part is learning the material. Everything else is secondary. Be prepared. Do research on the artist. Learn songs that they didn’t even send you to learn. It’s not easy to do, but it’s an easy question to answer.

Adam: For me, a big part of it is: Have they been a live artist before, or are they coming from a studio perspective? That allows me to dig in, in different way. When I got the Jill [Scott] gig, I simply studied the previous bass player, who was Thad. When I got the Janet Jackson gig, I studied Ethan Farmer. I was so deep into Ethan I was sounding like him for a minute! It made me go and get a Jazz Bass with Bartolinis. When I started doing Kanye, he had never had a bass player, so I had to think about the samples and the synth bass parts that I was going to recreate. I had to think about the 808s [vintage drum machine sounds], where I wasn’t going to play any bass at all, and let the playback track kind of do it because we needed it to sound like the album. It’s studying, like Dwayne said, but also, who was the bass player before you? I want to home in on what they did, and then, where I can, try to infuse myself.

Dwayne: That’s true; with Beck I was going deep in on JMJ [Justin Meldal-Johnsen]. That dude is heavy. It started to become scary, because that guy is a freak, y’all. [All agree.]

Moore performing with Beck

BM: Dwayne, how did you get the gig with Beck, and what is his show like from your perspective?

I got Beck through doing Pharrell Williams’ gig. Beck heard me playing with Pharrell and reached out to his management. I flew out to L.A. to meet him and the band, and we hit it off. His songs are fun to play; they groove hard, and every note has a purpose. Beck knows his music inside and out, and he knows exactly what he wants for a live show and in the studio. He’s very particular and pays close attention to every detail. If something isn’t right, he’s able to tell you precisely what he’s looking for. He pushes me to be the best I can be. The show is like a pleasant roller coaster. We can be at the peak with “Devil’s Haircut,” and then we’ll drop a bit to something vibey, like “Hollywood Freaks,” and then drop a little more to something chill but still grooving, like “Lost Cause” or “Where It’s At.” Then we hit the peak again with something high-energy, like “Loser” or “E Pro,” and blow everyone away.

Moore with Beck

Thaddaeus: I agree with what everyone else said. I like to know what type of artist it is and what they want — what’s in their mind? You never know why they changed the bassist: scheduling, moving on, or sometimes they didn’t do a good job. So, [in that case] if you came in and did what they did, it wouldn’t be a good look. I like to talk to the artist, talk to the musical director, and have a moment to find out what’s going on in their heads. Do you just want to have a good time? Do you want to play the gig by the book? Do you want to revolutionize? That’s my first approach. Then, yes, learn the music, the records, and the shows they’ve done. Ultimately, talking with the artist has helped me a lot through the years, being able to click and connect. I want do a good job, but at the same time I want to blow your mind. I want them to be like, “That was incredible!” As opposed to simply, “You sound real good.” That’s my approach.

BM: For a tight, like-minded collective, you guys play a lot of different instruments. What are your main basses, and how important is having the right instrument?

Blackstone sporting a Charvel San Dimas bass

Adam: We all play different basses, but we all sound like ourselves. Like, Dwayne can pick up any of our basses and sound like Dwayne. All of which to say: The instrument plays a big role in how we sound, but more important is having the right instrument for the music. I try to bring the right bass for the gig, but if I were forced to play a brand I don’t play, I would make it work. I’ve been getting into my vintage basses lately, because I’ve been playing a lot of old school R&B. So I’ve been flashing a Lakland hollowbody with flatwounds that I tune down a 4th. I used it on a Little Richard tribute and a Donny Hathaway project. It’s so round, warm, and buttery. I also love my new Fender Ultra Series basses.

Tribbett with his Fender Precision

Thaddaeus: I have a Vintage Precision. When they sent it to me, I used it immediately on gigs with Chris Dave & the Drumhedz, so I got used to it quickly, and I love it. I agree with Adam — no matter the instrument, the focus should be on what’s needed for the gig. I recently did a few gigs with Omar Hakim, and I had to pull out my “fusion” bass, a Carvin 5-string. I’ve got a new Fender Jazz Bass that I love; I used it on Pharrell’s tour. I have a fretless Cort that people know from Jill Scott’s “Do You Remember” [Experience: Jill Scott’s 826+, Hidden Beach]. I still have my early black Fender P-Bass Lyte that people assume is my favorite, but it was the only bass I could afford at the time. My uncle picked it out for me when I was 14, and the older guys would tease me about it because of the way it looked. As doors started to open for me, I made sure I played that same bass, because I wanted people to know how good God was in my life, and how you should never be intimidated. It’s about using your gift and what you bring to the table, not who you’re trying to impress with your instrument.

Moore with his Warwick basses

Dwayne: I’ve been playing Warwick since 1998, when I was a teenager. My dad bought it for me because it was the bass he wanted [all laugh]. I played that cherry bass for so long that Warwick ended up contacting me to offer an endorsement. I’m simple, I don’t need much, but that was very nice of them. I know how to tweak it to get the proper sounds in gospel, R&B, and hip-hop. With Beck I use a lot of basses, including a Warwick hollowbody Star Bass. But mainly I’m playing ’75 and ’76 Fender Precisions, a Fender Mustang, a Harmony F5, a Hagstrom, and the Star Bass. Beck is very particular; he wants the exact sound on the recorded track. I switch six or seven basses a show — Thaddaeus and Derrick can attest, they’ve seen shows. It’s fun playing the vintage basses; it changes your approach and how you think when they’re in your hand. They fit me so well. I’m all about the vibe and the feel of the song; I don’t have all the tricks and the flash. I just give you a nice little tone and make it feel good.

Hodge with his Fender 5-string Jazz

Derrick: First of all, love to the late Tim Cloonan of Callowhill Guitars. Thad was talking about his famous black bass. People talk about the red Fender Jazz Bass 5 I’ve played over the last 15 years, and it was the same for me: That was the bass I could afford. I bought it used at a music store in Philly for $475, and it was broken. Tim was a guitarist in the senior ensemble at Temple University when I was a freshman, and he had just started messing around with guitars. He took my Fender and fixed it up. He added Nordstrand pickups and made the whole bass feel great. People have mistaken my Moollon 5-string for it on records, which is probably the bass I’ve most recorded with the past few years. Live, I’ve been using the Miura 5-string — shout out to Hiro Miura. I played it almost exclusively on my Color of Noize record. Ultimately, I don’t think too much about it; it all goes back to listening. When I saw Dwayne at Red Rocks with Beck, if I didn’t know him over half my life I would have thought those were the only kind of basses he ever played. And not just the basses, the decision-making: He’d throw in stuff here and there that was so much in the DNA of the song, he was living that style. So I try to get in that space with bass choice. If you have access to a lot of basses, that’s cool — but if not, let listening inform your approach and decision-making, especially if you’re starting out and don’t have access to more than one simple bass. Start by trying to listen as deeply as you can, and dive deeply into every aspect of the music you’re checking out. Maybe get off Instagram and stop following the coolest 50-second clip. Listen to some classic Oteil Burbridge, and then pull out some vintage Jerry Jemmott. Live with the music, and it will inform your decision-making without having to think too much about it.

Tribbett performing with Jon Batiste at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards

Moving Forward

BM: How do you continue to support each other?

Adam: I think we’ve all found our niche, even though we can all do the groove gigs. To hear my brother Derrick put out his third solo record, Color of Noize [2020, Blue Note]; to see Dwayne touring with Beck all over; to see how Thad continues to push the envelope and shut down the Tiny Desk series — with people still faking his licks on YouTube…we have all evolved within ourselves, and we’ve evolved into different lanes. I probably talk to Dwayne the most, because he lives the closest. I’ll be like, “Yo, what made you play that?” We’ll be on the same song or writing for a similar artist, and I’ll hear something. So it motivates me daily because of the limitless thinking each of these guys has. I’m influenced by each of them.

Blackstone performing and musical directing the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show:

Thaddaeus: I agree 100 percent — hearing each other push the envelope and learning new things during these uncertain times. For me, this has been a moment of taking inventory. What do I have? What could I be better at? What industries are poppin’ right now, and what’s needed? Apply yourself in a new trade wholeheartedly; you never know what doors may open. Sometimes you have to make something happen. Now is a good time, and that’s what I’ve been doing — working on plan B.

Tribbett performing with Chris Dave and The Drumheadz on Tiny Desk: 

Derrick: I can’t ever get comfortable watching these guys, and we hold each other accountable. Let me not be lazy, and instead, see an idea through because I just saw my friend do something great.

Hodge performing with Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, and MonoNeon:

Dwayne: Yeah, it’s easy. All I have to do is put on Derrick’s album or turn on the TV and see Adam, or turn on YouTube and see Thad. We have this incredible text chain going randomly, encouraging each other.

Moore performing with Beck in 2021:

BM: If you could play with any artist living or dead, who would it be?

Adam: Michael Jackson, and [jazz pianist] Bill Evans. I was a huge Bill Evans head, the way he stretched the harmony.

Dwayne: Stevie Wonder; he came onstage a few times with Pharrell. On the rock side, it would be U2. They go from the stage to the jet to home after every show!

Thaddaeus: I love Coldplay. I would love to do that gig.

Derrick: Maybe it’s because I was recently listening to Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley [1962, Capitol], but I’ll say Nancy Wilson — to be able to play a ballad with her.

BM: What is your favorite bass track by each of the other three? For Derrick?

Adam: Mine is Common’s whole Be album [2005, Geffen], with Derrick on upright.

Dwayne: Vivian Green’s “Emotional Rollercoaster” [from A Love Story, 2002, Columbia.

Thaddaeus: “Table Jawn” from Derrick’s first record [Live Today, 2013, Blue Note], and “World Go Round” from his album The Second [2016, Blue Note].

BM: For Dwayne?

Adam: The album Floacism Live, from the House of Blues in New Orleans [2003, DreamWorks]. Pick any track.

Thaddaeus: A mini-disc recording at Ford Memorial, at four in the morning! Dwayne has that element where you say, “I know it’s Dwayne, but he’s doing something different. I’ve never heard him do that before — what is that?

BM: For Thaddaeus?

Adam: Too many to name. [All agree.]

Derrick: I remember when “Don’t Change” by Musiq Soulchild [2012] left everyone floored.

Adam: Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” [Justified, 2002, Jive], which I’ve had to play every night for the past seven years. The simplicity of the whole-notes is out of this world. And the Jill Scott fretless track that Thad previously mentioned, “Do You Remember.”

BM: For Adam?

Dwayne: Joss Stone’s “Fell in Love With a Boy” [The Soul Sessions, 2003, Virgin]. Musiq Soulchild’s “Teachme” [Luvanmusiq, 2007, Atlantic]. Also Questlove and James Poyser’s remix of “Take It Off,” by Pharrell & the Yessirs [2007].

BM: What’s your advice for aspiring bassists and musical directors?

Adam: Keep your ears open; listen to many different styles. Be prepared when your number is called. A key for us was we were able to infuse different styles into whatever we were doing. But at the same time, you have to respect the music you’re performing. There’s an art to playing bass in a given style. We all totally respect the music, the sideman role, and the groove. Tricks and soloing are all good, especially if you’re doing your own thing. But know the support role, be versatile, and be the foundation.

Dwayne: Put down the phone and don’t learn every clip you see on Instagram. Social media is so powerful to this generation. Try to learn how to make a song feel good. Instead of doing crazy triplets, try to make a whole-note feel like crazy — vibe off it and try to make it feel amazing. And reach out to a mentor. Nobody came to any of us. Go find them, like we did. Reach out to someone who can help you get where you want to go.

Hodge feeling the love from Tribbett, Moore, and Blackstone after being honored at a 2018 concert

Derrick: Make the uncomfortable comfortable. If it means putting down your phone and ’shedding what your peers aren’t ’shedding, then do the unpopular thing. That can be difficult in this era when we show the best of ourselves in little clips. It’s so easy to believe the great stuff they say about you in the comments, but that can stagnate you. If you’re going to buy into the good comments, is it going to destroy you when they say something bad? Check out other styles of music, and be willing to develop constantly. That eliminates the distraction of, “I do this so great.” When you constantly bombard yourself with learning other music, how can you have an ego? How can you get a big head when you listen to Jaco and Anthony Jackson and Christian McBride, who dedicated their lives to their art? Last, understand that the music business is a people business. Don’t underestimate relationships. Try to eliminate burning bridges. You never know what people will remember about your energy, or whether you talked down on them or spoke negatively. Be yourself, but speak real to people. Be responsible with your words.

Tribbett pre-show, 2022

Thaddaeus: Allow yourself time to grow and process. You can’t be Adam, Derrick, or Dwayne overnight. Give yourself time to mature, strengthen, and cultivate your playing and your relationship skills. Don’t be discouraged — be focused. Find a rhythm through your practicing. Understand that everything happens within its due season. Consistency and trial and error are your best friends. If you don’t get the results you want, let it be a learning process instead of a mindset of failure. Get back on the horse, and encourage yourself. If you’re not humble, get humble, because there’s always somebody better. But, be confident in what you bring to the table. BM  

Brotherly love

Bass Brotherhood Gear Roundup

Adam Blackstone

Basses: Fender American Ultra Series Jazz Bass 5-string; Fender American Professional II Precision 5-string; Fender Custom Shop P/J 5-string; 1969 Fender Precision; Lakland Skyline 55-01; Lakland Skyline Hollowbody-30; fretless Ibanez Gary Willis 5-string; Moog Voyager, Korg KingKORG, and Korg Nautilus keyboard basses, Charvel San Dimas Bass, Jackson David Ellefson Signature

Strings: Black Diamond (.045–.125)

Amps: Gallien-Krueger 1001 RB head with NEO 412 cabinet

Effects: EBS OctaBass, FuzzMo, MultiComp, Black Haze, and MicroBass Preamp

Derrick Hodge

Basses: 1998 Fender Jazz Deluxe (with Nordstrand Dual Coil J pickups); Miura MB-R 5-string (with Delano pickup); Moollon J-style 4- and 5-strings; Moollon P-style 4-string; fretless Status Electro Graphite; Callowhill custom 5- and 6-strings; Callowhill J-style 5-string (with Nordstrand Fat Stack pickups); ’90s Czech plywood bass (maker unknown) from David Gage Instruments, with D’Addario Helicore Hybrids and Thomastik Spirocore strings, David Gage Realist pickup, and a French bow

Strings: Dunlop Super Bright Stainless Steels (4, 5, and 6 Strings)

Amps: TC Electronic Blacksmith head with RS410, RS212, or RS210 cabinets; Aguilar DB 751 head with DB 410 or and GS 410 cabinets

Effects: MXR Octaver; TC Electronic Flashback Delay

Thaddaeus Tribbett

Basses: Reissue Fender Precision (22 frets), ’90s Fender Precision Lyte; Fender Jazz Bass; 2010s Fender Jazz Bass; Cort fretless; Carvin Bunny Brunel 5-string

Strings: DR Strings Sun Beams, DR Strings Legend flatwounds (both .045–.105)

Amps: TC Electronic RH750 head with RH410 or RH212 cabinets

Effects: Zoom B2.1u

Dwayne Moore

Basses: Warwick Corvette $$ 4- and 5-string; Warwick Infinity; fretless Warwick Thumb Bass; custom Warwick Thumb Bass 5-string; custom Warwick Corvette (pink acrylic); Warwick Star Bass; 2021 Fender Precision; 1975 Fender Precision bass; 1976 Fender Precision; Fender Mustang; Harmony H22; ’64 Hagstrom H II; Moog Subsequent 37 keyboard bass. “I also use an MPC 2000 MIDI controller to trigger Ableton synth, 808, and FX samples.”

Strings: DR Strings Pure Blues, Hi-Beams, and Legends

Amps: Vintage Acoustic 360 and 361 rigs; Ampeg SVT VR head with SVT 810E cabinet; Warwick WA 600 head with WCA 410 cabinet

Effects: Electro-Harmonics Original Big Muff Deluxe and Small Stone Analog Phase Shifter; Eventide H9 Harmonizer; Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz; MXR Bass Preamp and Envelope Filter; Boss DM-2W Delay; EBS OctaBass; Digitech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope; DOD Gonkulator Ring Modulator; JHS Pulp N Peel V4 Compressor

For more on Adam Blackstone: Click Here

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For more on Derrick Hodge: Click Here

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Follow Thaddaeus Tribbett: Here

Follow Dwayne Moore: Here

Chris Jisi   By: Chris Jisi

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