Berklee Bass Department: 2019 Holiday Jam

This is a tradition we love and look forward to. This year, it almost didn’t happen, but Steve Bailey came through once again with a video for us to share.

And what a lineup! This year’s video features Ron Carter, Justin Chancellor, Leland Sklar, John Patitucci, Victor Wooten, Janek Gwizdala, Freddie Washington, and Bailey.

Steve shares the story:

With our great assistant chair, Sandro Scoccia, on sabbatical this Fall I had resigned myself to not doing our annual Holiday Track. As August slipped into September several colleagues asked: “what is coming this year?” My reply was, “we are taking a year off as with Sandro gone, I am doing double-duty and won’t be able to devote the time and energy…”

BUT on Sunday night, October 27th I was flying back to Boston from a project in Austin to prepare for a Berklee visit the next day with the great Ron Carter. It had been gnawing at me that we (I) had “given up” this year so I texted Victor Wooten and asked what he thought about me asking Ron to lead off the 2019 Holiday Track. Vic said “what song do you have in mind?” and I said I had no idea.

I then emailed Ron, asked him if he would like to participate and he replied that he had seen them over the last several years and would be happy to participate. So the track was born with that YES!

The next day, before we went into the performance hall to present the Ron Carter Bassline Construction clinic, we wired up in my office and I asked Ron to play choruses of Blues with me standing on the sideline calling various keys and modulations. (Hand signals really… as the U87 was “hot”) One take… (the rule is that the parts can’t take more than 20 minutes, from anyone) Ron’s choruses heard here and the ones still in the can are textbook perfect harmonic structures combining tensions, releases, and groove… and GROOVE

Then, 3 days later Freddie Washington was in town with Steely Dan and he stopped by to visit a couple of classes and I put up the session and asked him to just groove in “A”…. and the funk sections were born out his Jam

Then Patitucci came in on his lunch break a few days later and started doing his magic for a few minutes, throwing in tons of holiday and Christmas melodies.

Janek Gwizdala was next, just blowing over what was already there.

Then Lee Sklar was in town as the Wes Wehmiller Scholar and we had a bunch of time to hang, so while recording a song that we wrote together many years ago, he generously offered to “let me have a turn”…

Tool was in town at TD Garden and Justin (and Danny) came over before soundcheck and did a clinic. Just after the clinic, Justin, Lee, Danny, and I got to spend about 18 minutes together in the “chair studio/office”

Then Victor Wooten… More of the same, just finding the right part and that gets more and more difficult as things start filling up. Victor is the master at finding just the right part, chord, melody, slide, harmonic… or in some cases, NOTHING! It takes courage to play nothing, sometimes.

Finally, I did some chords and a few more melodies and licks… where there was room

Then, drums: Billy Kilson is one of the great players/educators in the percussion world and he has a way of swinging that is incredible. He and Ron sounded like they were in the same room, breathing the same air

And finally, we needed some Funk and our great Berklee President, Roger Brown, came in and reminded us of what he did long before he was a college president or business entrepreneur. He slammed hard!

Throw all of that together with some pics of the year and performance video, we end up in mid-December… and I have to get this out-the-door! We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Even though he is the most recorded bassist in jazz, very few bass players get to feel what it’s like having Ron Carter “driving the bus”… we are all honored for the opportunity.

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