SMOOTH INDIE STAR / SMOOTH JAZZ
How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
It’s a natural creative progression. I get Inspired to write new tunes when the previous CD has run its course. I wrote the tunes for Mr. Jones over a year ago. I don’t set out to write in any particular direction or genre, the tunes just come out like that. I did make a conscious decision to add some vocals, whereby I would use them as an Instrument with some simple B.V’S I also wanted to get back a little to what I love, the rhythms of Funk & R&B. That’s where Get Up comes in. Read More
I have had the privilege of having Rick Braun & Mike MacArthur on my last CD & wanted them to play on Mr. Jones Philippe Saisse came on board through both of us playing on the Grooveatech Orchestra CD.
I thought he would suit this album & I was right, what a great job he did. I am lucky to have these people with me. My goal for this CD is to have it culminate all the building I have been doing with my previous CD’S & finally get to tour. I am looking at coming to the USA in January 2015 & do a few gigs.
I also design High End speakers & will probably be at the NAMM music show around then, so some gigs at the same time sound good to me.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?
Every part of the process is an enjoyable & satisfying challenge. I have to write, play groove & lead bass, organize all the players, files coming & going from all over the world, co-ordinating deadlines, studio time, CD manufacture, artwork, promotion, mixing, producing & more. It will be nice when the time comes that I can delegate some of these tasks.
How would you describe what inspires you to do what you do?
The reward when I hear my CD finished & mastered is so satisfying it gives me all the Inspiration I need to make more. Being a musician is all the inspiration I need. For me it’s the rhythm & the melody. My Instrument is my voice. We as musicians are so lucky we can do that. I also get inspired by listening to other musicians.
The other side to this is when you see the effect you have on people when they listen to your music. To be able to give them some joy & make them feel good through your music Is a great Inspiration.
What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?
A great groove, melody, simplicity & musical conversation with the other musicians who I’m playing with.
Who are some of your current favorite artists, Smooth Jazz or otherwise?
Rick Braun, Richard Elliott, Euge Groove, Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Gerald Albright, Marcus Miller, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Cindy Bradley, Down To The Bone, Nathan East, Fourplay, Brian Culbertson & list goes on.
What in your life outside of your music drives you in a creative sense?
I design & manufacture High End Bass Guitar Speaker Cabinets & I have just released my new range. It’s very satisfying to create something new & a progression from whereby my previous models were acclaimed the best there are.
SMOOTH INDIE STAR / SMOOTH JAZZ
WHERE FORGOTTEN MELODY CHARTED #22
You’re one of Australia’s premier bassists, having played, performed and recorded for several decades… can you give us a little background the road that led you here?
Sure. Along with R&B, Funk & Soul I’ve always had an empathy for the music of Marcus Miller. Lee Rittenour Larry Carlton. Dave Sanborn etc. It is very difficult here in Australia with our small population to support this style of music. Many musicians find themselves playing many genres of music to survive. As artists before me have found, you reach a certain stage here then have to go overseas to progress.
The USA is the biggest market for what I like to create, I can’t wait to get back there. Not forgetting Canada, Europe & Japan. Read More
You’ve recently released your first solo recording FORGOTTEN MELODY which is being met with great enthusiasm around the world. Why so long in the making?
I’ve played in so many situations & freelanced with a multitude of acts as a sideman. Along the way I have been in bands with recording contracts with singles and albums out and have written or co-written on some songs. I also have previuosly been down the searching for publishing and recording deals on my own.
The music I created for myself was once again described by the record companies here as not suitable for the Australian market and more for the USA at that time. So I decided to work for other people. I had to survive, I have 2 twin girls that needed attention. 20 years down the track I found myself still going around the same block and actually getting bored with no satisfaction. I decided to stop playing with everyone else & concentrate on my own music. I also have severe tinnitus and couldn’t stand playing in any loud situations. I moved to the coast looked at the bits and pieces I had written, pulled them into shape got together with my friend Ash Crick, called some friends and with the aid of Investors that believed in me went into the studio to record FORGOTTEN MELODY.
What are your plans to support FORGOTTEN MELODY? A tour perhaps?
Yes exactly. I want to tour USA, Canada, Europe & Japan hopefully next summer. I really miss gigging. The band will feature 2 bass players. I’ve already made some phone calls. Being independent is hard. I don’t have a manager, agent or the machine of a major record company to organize all those things. But I am lucky that I have come so far on my own with my partner Ash and to have met people like yourselves who have been a great support getting my music out all over the world.
In addition to being a world renown bassist, you are also the creator of the critically acclaimed Wayne Jones Speaker Enclosures. How did you get into the equipment manufacturing business?
I made my first bass speaker cab with my dad years ago as I needed a second cab and couldn’t afford it. I gained knowledge along the way, especially searching for that certain individual sound all us bass players look for. I realized what made certain cabs sound the way they do. I have used most brand of bass rigs and was a clinician here in Australia for an Import Co. that brought in Trace Elliot amps. I did many clinics and master classes for them and got to know how the design & equipment worked. One day I suggested they make a cab a certain way. They said they already had. It wasn’t what I thought it would be so I set out to design my own line of cabs.
My first designs were in the mid-price range for the everyday player and I sold a few. My second design was to be the highest quality, no expense spared cab to produce the sound I needed. They surpassed my Initial Idea and are almost Studio Monitors. We actually mixed the album through a pair then mastered on Quested’s. They were virtually acclaimed best high end cab by Bassplayer Mag in 2001. (Marcus Miller has two in his studio.) My market was the USA and unfortunately, September 11th put a halt to that. Once again I did it with no company behind me and limited capital. I am actually looking into starting up again.
What is the status of Smooth Jazz in Australia? Let’s make this a two-parter question… In your experience, does being an Australian jazz musician come with unique challenges that we may not encounter here in the U.S.?
Smooth Jazz is loved here just as anywhere else in the world. There is no comparison to your festivals though. It is a growing minority market here that is not very well catered for.
Smooth Jazz Commercial Radio stations are virtually non-existent. The only stations that play this music are community, Govt. and Internet stations. There seems to be more demand from the 30 to 65 age group. I get people in that age bracket and much younger loving my CD but there is really nowhere I can play live to follow this up. The small amount of venues and festivals are not worth my time to do, so I look to overseas.
The challenges of being an Australian jazz musician are unique. Once again it’s the lack of population to support it. We have some great Jazz players here. E.G James Morrison on Trumpet for one. He too has to venture out of the country to tour. He has built quite a name for himself and usually headlines the small amount of festivals here also. I will look to this after I have toured overseas. You just don’t see this with jazz. All other genres of bands that reach a certain level have to do this also.
If you could recommend one thing that everyone should do when visiting Australia, what would that be?
There are so many great things to see and do here that are unique. Definitely check out the beaches in summer. In Melbourne the restaurants, cafe’s and nightlife are great. A trip down the Great Ocean Road is a must. Wineries too. When I worked with Hugh McCracken here he and his wife Holly took off down the great Ocean Road and visited the wineries here in my state. Sydney has Darling Harbour, Gold coast in Queensland, The Great Barrier Reef. The list goes on.
TIDEWATER BASS EXPLOSION
Wayne Jones Going Deeper Down Under
Hello again from Tidewater Bass Explosion, and the TBE Interview Series. We’re going to Australia to speak with bassist/cab designer (and one of my close friends!) Wayne Jones!
Hi Wayne! Congratulations on your premier solo release, "Forgotten Melody"! Some of us have been waiting for the disc’s release for sometime, man! How does it feel?
Hi Brent, thanks. Yeah, I know I’ve been waiting a while for this, too. I couldn’t be happier with it in every aspect.
I feel that all that I have done in the past has culminated in this album!
Wayne, give our readers a bit of your history, and how you wound-up being one of the few premier bassists in Australia.
I actually started out as a drummer and I had a bad industrial accident when I was in my teens that left me with a partial loss of use of my left thumb. I couldn’t stop playing, so took up the bass "“ as I couldn’t play drums anymore. I have been around for a while in Melbourne and I had played in most situations – from original bands with record contracts, to cover bands and freelance session work. The music scene in Melbourne, and for that matter in Australia, is relatively small. You have to play many styles of music here to survive. Once you’ve been around for a while you tend to get to know a lot of people and develop a network. If you provide "the goods" you keep getting called. You know, you do one job and that leads to another and so on. I have always tried to be completely professional in my attitude and work ethic, and I’ve worked hard to progress and develop my playing. I learned a lot from American players – particularly from the era of Crusaders, Grover Washington Jr. and Lee Ritenour, with Marcus Miller being my main Influence. I’m now lucky to communicate with Marcus. He also has a pair of my cabs in his studio! Read More
You’re sounding great (as usual) and the group of players you selected for this outing have a very "hand-in-glove" feel about them! Have you guys played together often, or is this your first session together?
Thanks! Yes, we have worked together in different situations for over 10 years and we have that special chemistry that is rare. I love Gerry’s groove & he embellishes it with that finesse of style. Ron I have known for a lot longer. I really like how he speaks through his guitar. James Sandon is a newcomer for me & I hope will be here for a long time. Man his emotion on that sax is just what I needed. The other guys that played on Take Five are Ben Northey on sax & Kintsho Tshabalala (originally from Sth. Africa) on percussion. Ben now lives in Vienna & is one of Europe’s top conductors. Unfortunately he doesn’t pick up the sax much anymore. I worked with Kintsho for a while in a funk outfit & we became great friends. He moved away & I don’t see him much now. When I have to put something together I always try to use these particular players, and other occasions we’ve found ourselves at the same gigs as freelancers. I chose them for the album because of this and I knew that if I gave them all a demo disc of the tunes with the bare arrangements (grooves, bass lines, chords, melodies, solos) they would add their own flavor to the tunes – which also allowed them to express themselves, have fun, and give me precisely what I needed. Ash Crick and I have a long-time friendship and we’ve been partners in other ventures throughout the years. So, I have a lot of respect and complete faith in what he brings to any project – both as a musical and business partner. He co-produced the album with me and his keyboard parts are just what I needed. When I needed a hand with some bridges for songs he came up with them. He also would drum the point in, if I needed to change anything. If he thought melodies could be stronger he’d argue the point until it was proven. I like that about him!
You open with a romping funk called "Tom’s Shuffle", and the rest of the disc follows suit very nicely. Was it your intension to have a disc that flowed together this seamlessly, Or, did you just get lucky on that one? (Laughter)
No luck there! The order was carefully thought out by Ash and myself. I looked at the progression of the disc like I would plan a show, you have to start with good Impact then go on a journey of moods to a climax.
You’re a long-time Status Graphite user (as am I). Talk with us a moment about how you achieve such a great sound, and how your gear choices help you accomplish that.
I’ve been using Status basses for over 15 years now and I’ve owned 5 of them (or more). They give me the sound I’m looking for. The graphite neck gives me sustain and complete evenness no matter where I am on the neck, and the wooden wings give me the warmth I need.
My sound starts with my main bass, a Status "Empathy" 6-string fretted instrument. It has to be set up with the action low enough to give a nice sustain, but high enough for good attack. The pickup height has to be set to project that full, rich, fat sound that happens when both pickups are given equal gain. I run the instrument’s pre-amp with the bass and treble controls boosted about Â½ (half-past "flat"), then I back-off the front pick up volume a little to get some growl. I can back it off more If I need more of that Jaco type sound. It all depends where I play with my right hand to get different sounds. The closer to the bridge pick up the more attack etc,
In the studio I used a direct sound to Pro tools, an Avalon 737 pre-amp, a Mackie power amp and 2 Wayne Jones (WJ) 2×10+ horn cabs mic’ed, though, we ended-up just using the direct sound. Steve Scanlon (www.stevescanlon.net ) mixed and used his own plug-ins for compression, reverb and delay effects. I have to say that I couldn’t have picked a better person to mix and master this project. He did exactly what he was briefed to do, and more! I’m a happy boy! I hope he will be doing the next album with me.
Now that the disc is released are you heading-out on tour? While we’re talking about that, talk with our readers about you years of sideman work (who you’ve worked with, etc) and how that prepared you to lead your own project!
I will definitely be touring as soon as there is a demand to do so. I can’t wait to do the live shows – especially as I plan to tour with 2 bass players! All the press and promo, both here and in the US, should come out around the end of August or early September. Initial distribution for the disc has just been set up, and we have already had airplay here in Australia with a huge reaction! Now we are looking to approach radio in the States – to take it on and do some interviews and reviews. Once all of that is in place, I will rehearse the band for a week, and then tour. I look forward to coming over to the US and, hopefully, all the guys on the album will be available at that time!
Regarding the sideman work, I have been so lucky to work with a lot of great talent here. A few of those artists are now residing in the States, and they’re doing really well! One of whom is vocalist Jamie O’Neal. I love her voice! She hasn’t always done the country thing, though "“ as she used to be into Maurice Day, Prince, and R&B and Jazz, as well as Country. We spent a lot of time in bands together, and I played on her demos here before she went to the States to record her albums. Also in one of those bands was a great guitar player named Irwin Thomas, who also now lives in the US. Another band I had a lot of fun with was Jabulani, which was formed by a group of South Africans now living here, in Australia! I also toured with Ian Moss, who is a solo artist and guitar player from a famous Australian band Cold Chisel. I’ve done a lot of freelance work, some with the likes of Dave Hole, Geoff Achison, Kate Ceberano.
Marie Gabrielle (from New York) came her to do a festival. She brought Hugh McCracken with her. Apparently Will Lee & Rick Marotta couldn’t make it so myself & Savage Gardens drummer Karl Lewis were the rhythm section.
Some of the movies I have done are Trojan Warrior, and The Heartbreak Kid, and TV Series include Neighbors, and The Newlyweds, and I even did a corporate session for your Pacific Gas & Electric! I have also put together quite a few projects and I have run bands for a long time. It has given me great knowledge on how to set and achieve goals; how to run a team; how to run a business, and also how to treat and look-after a team properly that’s under my control. All these experiences have prepared me for my solo album.
Let’s take a brief aside and let’s talk about your bass enclosures! What’s happening with production, and when will we see the new cabs in the US?
I have a company, here in Australia, that is in the process of making a prototype (which is almost ready) to my exact specs. I have to approve it. Once that happens, they will then go into production and market them world-wide. This time around they will be available for retail.
C’mon, man! These cabs are some of the best in the world, what makes them so incredible?
What makes them so good is that the sound comes from the speaker first, without relying on porting the cabs for more bass response "“ and a few other things I’ve developed. If the full-range sound comes mostly from the speaker (without any frequencies missing, etc) then the cab should only act to enhance that sound. Then, I port (for tuning purposes). The depth of the cab is also very important. Some cab manufacturers can only build cabs that give you good mid and highs, then they port the cabs to get the lows that are inherently missing. Other cabs give you lows, but then other frequencies are missing. What you find is not all frequencies are present, in general. This is because when you enhance one area of a 10" speaker, another area suffers. It is really difficult to get a 10" speaker to cater a full-range sound properly, or efficiently. But, of course, we all like 10" speakers for their attack and fast response!
Well, we conquered that at WJ! I went to Michail Barabas (Lorantz Audio) and asked him to make me a 10" speaker that would give me 30Hz to 20KHz with all frequencies present "“ in order to compensate for the range of my 6 string. Then, I wanted the cabinets to be modular, like my first design cabs, so as I could take one for smaller gigs or take two (or more) for other situations. He looked at me in amazement, but we did it! We use a 70mm voice coil to get the bottom end, like a 15" JBL. We also added a Kevlar Impregnated cone that takes up as much area as possible with a small dust cover, and a 1" Horn for the top end, with a crossover with mid and high controls – to fine tune tone and overall sound. The enclosures are rated at 780 Watts RMS each.
You do have to use a high-powered amplifier to drive the cabs properly, otherwise the amp will give up and distort. Carl Young (Michael Franti & Spearhead) uses from 1 to 4 cabs when he tours and it is very practical. You, (BAJ) use 2 cabs for most situations "“ while a single cab works great for smaller gigs. The cabs are so "true" in reproduction that we mixed the album through them. Later we checked the album on Steve’s Questeds enclosures and we were amazed at how accurate the WJs were! Steve mastered the album his the Questeds, by the way.
Let’s take a conversational aside for a moment, Articulate your concept of "harmony" (whether its with the world you live in, relationships, or musical) and, also, talk with us about how that influences your writing process.
Harmony is what it says, both in music and in life, I feel. Each thing has it’s place and everything has to work together with respect for one another. Without harmony there is conflict! There’s nothing wrong with a little conflict now and again, as long as there is ultimate resolution. With composition I like to only state what’s needed in a tune and enjoy the interaction of all parts and instruments "“ as they contribute, and I stress melody instead of chops or mathematics – unless a certain type of music demands that. Let’s say, I’ll start writing from a drum loop for rhythm… I could, then, create a bass groove to compliment and interact with that rhythm with the benefit of having melody on the bass, and then add a chord progression which can be added to give substance to the bass melody and/or interacts with the rhythm of the drum & bass. Or, maybe, I could utilize different time signature against the original rhythm. Also a leading melody can go straight over the original idea to interact with everything underneath and provide separation – because of the different register of the melody instrument used. Bridges are then added for relief and solos add more fun! Finally, adding production gels it all together. I have found "simple, is always better". Why use more parts than necessary? If you have already stated what you wanted to anymore is just unnecessary conversation.
That sums it up, really. It’s musical conversation we create, and there’s nothing worse than someone trying to talk over you when you’re saying something.
What things are you practicing these days? Also, talk with our aspiring readers about how to prepare for sideman gigs, and how to audition. Oh yeah, describe your "thumb-style" approach, and how you’ve developed it over the years.
I practice my modes everyday (except for weekends) to a drum loop – covering one key a week. I’ll finger play them, then slap them, then play some diatonic chords… I then practice my album to prepare for touring (laughter)! On top of that I’ll just blow over the top of the album, or other tunes, for solo practice and bass groove improvising.
How I prepare for sideman gigs, If it’s a band gig, I make sure that I only commit to a gig that I will enjoy and that I will also enjoy working with the people in the band. Financially I will only work for a certain fee that is appropriate to my caliber, experience, and fairness. I’ll also ask when I will be getting paid "“ which is really important. I will ask for the material, arrangement, and how the live show is different form the CD. I then check gig details so I can be completely professional. Most of the preparation I do can be considered homework. So, I make sure I get the material in plenty of time so as I can learn it! I learn the material and, more than likely, write my own charts. At the stage I can ignore the bass player on the disc I’m listening to and play the part as if I was the in the band (feeling all the instruments and locking with the drummer), I have learned the tunes! Then I can do the gigs as if I had been in the band for ages with confidence, and no rehearsal.
On stage, I make sure my sound is good (not too loud or too soft), and I sometimes ask other players about my sound. After all that I have fun and engage the audience when I"˜m not looking at charts "“ as that’s what I’m there for in the first place! Of course, from experience, not all things you are told actually happen (arrangement-wise) so you have to be able to handle that!
A few simple rules for sideman work is 1. be professional 2. do your home work 3. have good people skills with respect to all 4. be confident without being cocky 5. enjoy the gig as best you can and cover whatever you think may happen – as Murphy’s law applies.
Regarding my thumb style, Some guys have a downward strike on the string but I prefer striking the string horizontally – as I find this approach more percussive. I do have a slight down-ward motion as my thumb strikes the string. I pop with both my index and middle fingers. But, mainly I use my second (middle) finger. When I used to play 4-string I sometimes had my left hand thumb over the neck like Louis Johnson. My style hasn’t really changed from when I started… Marcus Miller is the main Influence for me, but there’s a bit of Mark King in there, too. I tried Victor Wooten’s style but found it didn’t suit me. Though, he’s amazing.
Man, your disc sounds has an almost "tropical" feel! Its evident you had a lot of fun while recording it! I can almost hear the "sunshine and good times" vibe. What was your favorite part of recording this project?
Yeah it should have a tropical feel, as it was recorded, here, in the tropics: on the tropic of Capricorn in a place called Yeppoon, Queensland (AU). Remember when I called you from the studio? What a great way to create and record.
A friend of mine, Greg Lewis, built a fantastic new studio about 7 km out of town, www.cre8sound.com. It’s actually in tropical bush land. What a place to create!! We were away from cities; we woke up every day to a view of Great Kepel Island on the Great Barrier Reef; had breakfast in town and then went into the studio for those long days. When we took a break we came out of the studio to the sounds of chickens clucking, and Greg & Kerry’s kids playing on the property! My favorite part of recording this project was, everything. The team in every respect couldn’t have been any better. We worked hard but enjoyed every minute. I am so grateful to Greg Lewis who gave me the opportunity to record my album at Cre8Sound. He was also responsible for organizing the funding for the project!
Oh yeah, Talk with us about your approach to "Take 5", and how that made the disc.
I have always wanted to do a version of that tune – as I’ve loved it since I was a teenager. At the same time I wanted to make it groove, and put into it today’s world and make it feel like it had a 4/4 feel – while keeping the tune in 5/4. It was recorded 7 years ago at the same time as "Hiraeth" – the track that Bassics put on their sampler CD a few years ago (editor note: that interview was also written by BAJ).
Originally it didn’t have any drums on it – as I used a loop. Gerry put down the drums at his house on Pro tools and then we took it to the studio. Ash put down the piano solo and then I asked Steve if he could mix it and make it sound like it had continuity with the rest of the album. He looked at me as if I were10 ghosts in front of him! Man he had his work cut out for him! He did it though and you wouldn’t know it was recorded somewhere else 7 years ago! "Magic Man", that 2 trax Scanlon is. I call him "2 trax" – as he mixed 2 tracks per day!
When can we expect the next Wayne Jones release?
I have it in the back of my mind to start writing for the next album. I’m so busy with this current one that the writing will have to wait until this one has run it’s course and the touring is over with. I will then probably come back to where I live (near the beach) in peace and quiet, and begin writing the next one.
What would you like to say the bassists reading this interview?
First, I hope you have enjoyed the interview and like the disc! You are all lucky to have the gift of the bass and it’s an amazing Instrument that is so expressive. There’s nothing you can’t do if you have the imagination and put your mind to it, and if you have the passion. If I have inspired some of you then that makes me smile. We all have something to offer and one day I’ll be listening to your music, too.
Thanks for the Interview Brent. It’s a pleasure to be interviewed by such a great player, friend (and endorsee) as yourself.
Alright people! Go to CDBaby and pick up Forgotten Melody, and do check out the WJ Bass Enclosures! You guys just don’t know,! We’re hoping to have a couple at the next Tidewater Bass Explosion. So, c’mon down and play them. You’ll flip, for real!
TIDEWATER BASS EXPLOSION