Reader Spotlight: Brian Derek

Brian DerekMeet Brian Derek, our player in the spotlight for December 22nd, 2009.


I studied at Berklee for a few semesters in the ’70’s playing/composing jazz. I have done every type gig imaginable and recorded many independent record/cd projects (a favorite of mine is “The Warning” w/Rory Pastorius in 1986); performed with Pat Metheny, Peter Erskine, Randy Bernsen, Jack Pastorius (Jaco’s dad, in 1987 in Ft. Lauderdale for a benefit for Jaco at his passing), Mike Stern, Jay McShann, Joe Beck, 5th Dimension, Neil Sedaka and Stephen Stills.

I’m currently teaching jazz/harmony/theory/e. bass, and lead a quartet and trio and make my living (marginal at times!) as a freelance jazz bassist/composer.


Ft. Wayne, IN, USA

Day gig:

Raising a 4 year old bass player and music.

Years experience:

Since I was about 13, or around 1970.

Bands & Gigs:

Well I free-lance full-time and lead a quartet performing mostly original music by myself as well as standards, latin-jazz etc. and a trio that does some originals and bebop, latin, funk-jazz and world-fusion. Most styles under the jazz umbrella featuring a lot of improvisation.


I currently gig regularly with: Hartke 2500 amp or a GK 400RB;Hartke 115XL cabinet (or other one-15 inch cab) for most lower volume jazz gigs. I still own and plan to use more: Acoustic 360/361 bass amp and a 406 Transducer 2×15 cab. Have used Deltalab digital delays and a Roland Space Echo for bass. Also I use an auto-wah/distortion pedal (similar to my old Mutron II) and a Fender Blender fuzz (don’t get it out much since it’s getting old) and a volume pedal.
My steady gig bass is a Fender jazz bass that I built from scratch. Modeled after a 1963 jazz bass w/cloth coated wire, knurled bridge pieces, brass grounding strap(don’t think that it functions any better than a routed wire connection to the bridge), a ’62 re-issue fretted neck w/rosewood and dot position markers. A 1964/65 fretless jazz bass, 2 1973 jazz basses-fretless and fretted.

Why I play the bass:

When I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, I knew I was going to be a musician. Paul played bass. But I started guitar first, then drums, then finally bass. Plus James Jamerson was a huge inspiration growing up in Detroit during the Funk Bros/Motown era. And playing Jimi Hendrix’s music really opened everything up. Then later upright guys like Paul Chambers and Ron Carter helped point me in a direction on the electric bass.

My bass superpower/claim to fame

I guess playing the music on Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” record w/Pat and Peter Erkine for Jaco. I’ve played with a lot of famous people and so many local players in Chicago, Boston, FL etc. and have gained an awful lot of musical insight to playing bass for any gig that comes up. I guess success for me has not meant making lots of money but, I realized I “made it” when, a piano player friend says to me one night after a gig: “man, I want to get where you are, being able to play what you think now, right now; having a direct link from head, heart and hands!” It’s taken me a long time to be able to improvise and be very musical and melodic at the same time. It’s like spontaneous composition over a standard or any type tune. That, I believe is my bass superpower.

My influences

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Detoit Motown, Jaco Pastorius, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, Bartok, Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Mick Goodrick, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Mozart, James Jamerson, Alphonso Johnson, Dave Holland, Mingus, Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, Steve Swallow, Eberhard Weber, …

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