Jimmy Haslip Interview- The Zen of Bass
It was just the other day, during a casual conversation with guitarist Jimmy Herring, I asked him that which bass players come to your mind who you would like to play with, and the first name that came out his mouth was Jimmy Haslip. He continued to say how musical and sublime Haslip was in situations that he had heard him. When you ask session and touring musicians, everyone wants to have Haslip in their mix.
From a personal standpoint, working with him over the past several years ( with Oz Noy trio), you realize how important it is to have a really cool guy on the road, who keeps it all together and goes above and beyond than just playing on stage. It is not enough to just having a great musician in your band, it is as important to have a zen-like force with you on tour who keeps it rock steady and is a team player. Jimmy Haslip falls in that category, a really special one.
A deep musician, Jimmy Haslip has been holding it down for so many greats, starting with Yellowjackets, Robben Ford, Allan Holdsworth to Oz Noy, just to name a few. The list can go one forever.
We caught up with Jimmy at his home in Los Angeles as he was preparing to travel to Europe.
Abstract Logix : Its been a few years, since you left the Yellowjackets to work on other endeavors. How has it been?
Jimmy Haslip : 7 years now to be exact. Can’t believe that !
Well actually from the moment I left in 2012 I have been solicited to produced 5 and possibly 6 projects that year which I ended the year producing 10 projects and that trend has continued for now 7 years.
I’ve been producing between 10-12 projects a year for the past 7 years. . . and this year I’m already producing 9 projects in various stages with 3 more project awaiting scheduling.
Currently I’m now completely finished with One of these projects which is a collaborative recording with Jeff Lorber and Mike Stern called ‘ELEVEN’
I’m mixing two projects and close to finishing those now . .The other 6 projects are in still being worked on with tracking session and overdubs. So on average in the last 7 years I’ve produced around 80 recordings.
Also included in the years calendars have been some live performance mostly with the Jeff Lorber Fusion and the Oz Noy trio.
All in all . . The last 7 years have some far been extremely interesting and fascinating musically.
All else has be great and challenging to on many levels with life in Los Angeles. Hahahaha. It’s all motivating and inspiring !!
AL : You recorded and toured with the great Allan Holdsworth during his final years, From someone who worked with him so closely, what runs through your mind when you reflect on his music?
JH : I did work with Allan for just about 10 years on and off. I worked with him quite a bit in 2015.
Then 2016 there was a bit of a break in his schedule. I recorded with him in January / February 2017 on a production production I brought him in on.
I miss him dearly . . He was beyond a one of a kind musician and composer.Working with him was Incredible on every level and it was a blessing that I’ll never forget, to have shared the stage and play his compositions. It was the most special feeling playing gigs with him.
I can almost compare it to my childhood feeling of excitement in the air that I felt every Christmas Eve!
Extraordinary experience for sure but it’s really hard to express in words.
AL : You are known as a prolific bassist who does not overpower the music but serve its purpose. Whats going through your head as you prepare for the music you have to serve?
JH : Well I love music . . All kinds of music and I have even studied music from many other countries.
Indigenous Folk music has been a focus for me since the mid 1980’s and I love the simplicity of a lot of the music I’ve heard in these ethnic genres.
It hundred and maybe even thousands of years of developed music that is deeply rooted in these different cultures.
Who’s to argue with that, as far as structure, harmony, rhythms and essence of expression . .
That’s a bottom line for me and the foundation of how I learned to play the electric bass when I studied bass lines from even James Jamerson Sr.
( iconic bass player who recorded on quite a bit of Motown Music )
I definitely first learn any bass parts written by the composer and then I try to make it feel solid and expressive so it hopefully breathes life into the notes on the music paper.
If I then can add any natural and instinctual improvised notes, phrases and melodic enhancement that comfortable for the artist/ composer / producer . . That’s just some added icing bring in some possible new element(s) to the piece.
I just want the music to feel natural and wholesome. I also want and strive for the the artist/ composer / producer to be happy with the final recorded performance. It’s important to me to know that I fulfilled their expectation and vision for the music !!
AL : As you know, Harbor Lights by Bruce Hornsby has been a landmark record for me personally. I know its been over 25 years. Can you reflect back on the moments of working on that record?
JH : That project was so special to me because Bruce and I became friends long before he and the Range put out THE WAY IT IS . . .
So to be invited to work with Bruce on this new music for him as a solo artist. His first solo project was for me a huge gift and a delight. I stayed in Williamsburg, VA for about 10 days where Bruce had moved to and built a home and a private recording studio there.
John Molo ( the drummer with the RANGE) was there as well and we rehearsed and recorded all the basic tracks for this project . . . He then casted the individual songs with guest artists which included a who’s who lineup and the rest was history.
I always loved Bruce’s writing ! Exquisite and prolific.
He worked on lyrics with his younger brother Lon. Bruce came from a super cool and talented family . . Just the best vibes all around and I think the music expresses those feelings. Even the controversial lyrical content is enlightening and poignant on so many levels.
The music is deep and rich !
Again an honor to have worked with Bruce on this music as well as his follow up recording we worked on basically the following year called HOT HOUSE.
Everything about these projects was above board, high end and yet so comfortable and to work there with everyone.
Another unforgettable experience in my life !
AL : There are so many records that you have been a part of , if you had a moment to think about from very beginning of your career, tell me at least five records which are close to your heart?
JH : That’s an awful tough question to answer !!
But I’ll choose these projects for now ! There’s probably at least another 20 or so projects I could easily add to this as I have recorded on over 400 recordings.
Robben Ford ‘The Inside Story’
Yellowjackets ‘Four Corners’
Rok Golob ‘The Story of Laxeno’
Jing Chi ‘3 D’
ARC Trio ‘ARC Trio’
If I could add a 6th record that I’m wanting to add to the list below of the 5 recordings ( very difficult to answer this request !!! Hahahaha)
Bobby McFerrin ‘Bang Zoom’
AL: Thanks so much Jimmy for taking the time, we will see you shortly on the road. Until then….