Smitty: It's truly a pleasure to welcome one of the funkiest bass players in the business. This is a cat that has his own bass chords, he's Mr Velvet himself, he has just released a great new live album and you've got to hear this one, it's called At the Jazz Base. Please welcome Heads Up recording artist Mr. Gerald Veasley. How are you doing Bro?
Gerald Veasley (GV): I'm doing great. It's always great to hear from you.
Smitty: Thank you, it's always good to talk to you my friend. This has got to be an exciting summer for you, you've got this great new record out and man it's fantastic! You have taken the bass to another level. Talk to me about this exciting time for you, because when you've got a new record out there, it just really makes the summer much more exciting, doesn't it.
GV: I am so excited about the release of this record, and I'm just like a little kid because, you know I've done 6 CDs prior to this one for Heads Up, but this it the first live recording and it's kind of like the way it always should have been in one sense.
Because when you perform live you get so much energy from the audience, and they just give pure spontaneity and they can feel the enthusiasm that you have and they help us generate the excitement. And when you capture that on a recording, that is something special and different from a studio recording. So I'm very pleased with the way it came out.
Smitty: Oh yeah, everyone has been anticipating this one. Talk to me about why you decided to do the live record, and how long have you been thinking about this?
GV: Well, I've been thinking about it for a while, there are a lot of things I have to have before doing a live recording. First of all you have to have a label that's willing to do it. Dave Love, Heads Up, felt like now was the time, that we had made enough of an impact in the industry and now was the time to try something different. So I had his endorsement, that was great and you also have to have a great venue or venues where you can record on several nights and sort of submit the best stuff and that was something that was a little trickier to do. It's not an inexpensive project but, something special happened earlier this year and that was, I got my own jazz club. It's a club called The Jazz Base and we present music in Reading, PA. in the Sheraton Hotel under the name Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base. So here we had a great opportunity to record multiple nights and present people with the very best of what we do live. Oh, and the third component that I forgot to mention is, you've got to have a great band (laughing) and I've been recording my records since 1992 and I finally have a band that is really just a killer group of musicians and so serious, and accomplished and young at the same time. I mean, the resume, can you, will you just indulge me; let me give you the resume of some of the guys in my band.
GV: With Jill Scott, Alicia Keyes, Jeffrey Osborne, Maynard Ferguson, the list just goes on and on. These are young and accomplished musicians who bring a lot of experience and excitement to my music, so I had to capture this band live.
Smitty: Wow, that's quite a line up.
GV: That's a helluva line up (laughing).
Smitty: Tell me a little bit about what was happening when you first got into this project. Because I was very curious to know; were you trying to capture the essence of the live performance itself, or was it what you were feeling as a musician in front of an audience?
GV: I think it's the combination of both. What you are able to create as an artist when the audience is there, surpasses what you can do in a studio environment. Because now you are influenced and encouraged and are so charged by the energy that the audience gives you, that you can go to places where you never tend to go in the studio. So that was the first and foremost, and for certain we wanted to capture that for people to hear on the record. You know, I have experienced a thing over the years where people would come up to me after one of my performances and say 'yeah Gerald, that was good man, that was, where can we buy that!' (laughing) 'Your studio records are good but, man if I could take that home'. So I figured it was just about time to give people a taste of what we actually do while we are performing.
Smitty: Yes, you get the whole improvisational package too wouldn't you say?
GV: Oh definitely, a lot of times when you are doing contemporary jazz records, you have to think about the length of the tunes, the kind of tunes, how long the solo should be, what kind of solos, and you kind of make certain assessments that have to do with radio; And then there's the accessibility of your music, you tone it down, a lot of things that you do a little different for the studio than you would do live. And then, I'm not the only one, you see a lot of fantastic bands out there who make very fine records, but when you go and see some of these artists live it's just a whole other level. I felt it was time to get that 'other level' on the record where you don't have to be concerned about the length of the song, let the song be as long as it needs to say what you have to say, you know.
Smitty: Yeah, You captured that man, I really think so.
GV: Well thank you.
Smitty: Do you prefer the studio or do you prefer the live performance?
GV: I prefer live (laughing). One thing is that I've always enjoyed the certain attention to detail that you have in the studio. I also enjoy the challenge of capturing something, like the musical idea and getting it on record. I've always been happy doing records even prior to doing my own records, I've been involved with people like Grover Washington Jr., Joe Zawinul, and even gospel records way back in the early 80s, late 70s with the Dixie Hummingbirds and Gospel records. And I was always the kind of guy that would go into the studio, you know, you're hired to do bass, I would get there early, check out what the engineer was doing, do my part and then still stay and hang out see what everybody else is doing. Stay and listen, watch the producer work, and watch the engineer work. So I'm also very, very fascinated by the whole studio process, definitely, but, you know, my real love is live performance without a doubt.
Smitty: Yes, you mentioned this great band. Tell me about their reaction to this project before, during and after.
GV: The guys were very excited about having the chance to do a record like this because I think they recognized what I recognized; that this band is something special that needed to be documented. So we spent a lot of time rehearsing, making sure we had it right and, to-a-man, they all gave of their time and their energy and put their hearts into it, just like I did. You can't ask for more than that. Those guys are very, very proud of their work and of the result.
Smitty: Very cool. Well, let's get into the record a little bit more, talk to me about the great track, "Celebrating Sipho".
GV: Yes, Sipho Gumede was a really talented bass player from South Africa… because as you remember Smitty, I have a love affair with South Africa.
Smitty: Yes, I remember.
GV: It's one of the places on the planet that endured so much in terms of what the people, the people struggle and yet they are people who are now triumphant and not bitter, they are moving forward. So I have had a love affair with the country, the people, and with the music and Sipho Gumede is one of those musicians, a fellow bass player that I met, we connected right away and he unfortunately passed away last year. And I've had a kind of yearning to do something, a tribute to South Africa, what I did was wrote this piece and dedicate it to his memory. So Celebrating Sipho is not really a sad and melancholy piece, it's more of a triumphant piece about the fall of a great musician and the soul of a great country.
Smitty: It's a great tune.
GV: When people hear that tune they kind of immediately start bobbing their head, and really have a smile on their face, because it has that whole kind of lazy but yet rhythmic South African bounce to it. So I think it came off pretty well.
Smitty: I love Sugar Time, nice track.
GV: Oh thank you, thanks. "Sugar Time" has a little bit of bluesy melodicism in there and it also has a kind of old school groove to it, just a real street driving rhythm and it's one of those melodies that just popped in my head one day. When I was working on Velvet I created a lot of melodies or I guess a lot of melodies came to me, and what I did was I carried around a tape recorder and I would just sing into it everything that popped into my head. When I had enough of these, I would sit down at my kitchen table and start writing out some of these melodies on paper, and they became most of the tunes for Velvet. That process just continued in writing new tunes for the live album.
Smitty: Right. It has a seriously cool melody to it. I just want to know the story behind Bread Puddin', come on (both laughing)
GV: Well, you know, Bread Pudding, it's one of those irresistible desserts. I grew up in a family where we had a lot of wonderful things growing up. We had lots of experiences and somehow we managed to travel and have just great fun. We didn't have much money but my family always made sure that we enjoyed life. Bread Pudding is something that I will order anyway, even when I'm not suppose to at a restaurant. If I see it on the menu I'll order it because it reminds me of the bread pudding that my aunt and my mother used to make. And I was always fascinated by that as a dessert, it's a long story, but I'm fascinated because you take something so basic and you make something really sublime out of it. I call it, making something from nothing. A lot of this is how music is, the creative process, for all the artists; you take just the essence of an idea and you can create something so wonderful that people can enjoy so, that's the whole Bread Puddin' story (both laughing).
Smitty: That's pretty cool, I can truly identify with that. I miss my mom's bread pudding and had to ask you about that. Just listening to all of the tunes on this great record and thinking about how versatile you were with this record, I wondered, how does the songs come to Gerald; are you in a certain mood or are you in a certain location, what's happening when a song come to you?
GV: Well, I hinted with my earlier answer. My songs will come to me at any time and when that happens whether I'm driving down the street, a lot of thoughts come to you when you're driving or it could be walking in the mall or it could be planting something in the garden, and I hear a melody, and what I try to do is either remember it, write it down, sing it into a recorder and then develop it later. I think the main thing one has to do is not block all of those influences and those sounds that you hear in your head, don't block them, try to work with those things. Sometimes as creative people we can edit ourselves too much, we think, well, 'I wonder if people will like this, I wonder if this is commercial', just let it flow through you. So I'm fortunate that I have a pretty good flow these days.
Smitty: Yes indeed.
GV: Thank you.
Smitty: It's great to have the kind of support that you mentioned earlier with Dave Love and the band. I'm sure that helps to retain the creative atmosphere of what you're feeling and what you're trying to convey with your music.
GV: It's a very interesting team, isn't it?
Smitty: Yes it is.
GV: I mean you have a band who are helping you on the creative side, you have an audience that gives you tremendous support and encouragement and feedback, and you have a label on the business side that gives you the resources and the permission and encouragement to do what you need to do. And then of course, people like you are an important part of the team too, spreading the word about what I'm doing. We're all in this together and I really appreciate you.
Smitty: Thank you very much that's nice of you to say that, it's always a pleasure. I've enjoyed your creative approach to making great music and sharing it with the world.
GV: Thank you for that.
Smitty: Love that six string bass man (laughing).
GV: I think its fun. You can do so much with a six string. I mean, I still have a lot more records in me because there are so many things that I haven't even shown that you can do with the bass, like it's almost to the point where we've got to find some other new formats for recording because the CD are just not long enough (both laughing). Perhaps I'll use my website for that, I'll put some snippets on there just for folks to hear. By the way, speaking of websites, for your listeners and readers, it's www.geraldveasley.com They can check it out, I have a journal up there where I talk about some of the things that I've been doing. I have some news about projects that I have, and there's a guest book in which we have some very interesting entries from, you know, places that we've been and places where the records have been, and we just really appreciate our fans. I really don't like the word fans, because it almost kind of signifies that you're on a different level from the people that enjoy your music. But there are no real accurate words, so I use words such as our good friends, or friends around the world who love the music, with the guest book they can come on and sign on and leave their comments and I'll respond.
Smitty: Nice. And you've got some great multimedia stuff on there, some video snippets too.
GV: Yes, we have some video stuff. We're actually going to be putting up some more stuff. We recorded a DVD and the actual recording of the CD; we call it our Official Bootleg (both laughing). We'll put some snippets from that up on the website.
Smitty: Are you still taking on more people for the Bass Boot Camp?
GV: Yes, the Bass Boot Camp is going strong. We have started registration for 2006 Bass Boot Camp and we also have a big prize giveaway this time around. People will have the opportunity to win tuition to the Bass Boot Camp, along with a special signature six string Gerald Veasley bass, amplifier, and some other goodies. So everybody has an opportunity to sign and win as well as being a part of the Bass Boot Camp which is so, so much fun.
Smitty: Wow, that's too cool. I may sign up for that six string baby (laughing).
GV: Yes, it's a six string. So I suggest you sign on up, but the Bass Boot Camp itself has been a great project the last few years, we bring in some great instructors, it varies from year to year but people like Victor Wooten, Gary Willis, Jimmy Haslip from the Yellow Jackets; just some great, great players who also are very generous in terms of sharing their knowledge. We do that for a whole weekend, it always happens in March during the Berks Jazz Festival, which is held in Reading, Pennsylvania. That whole weekend we just immerse these musicians, these bass players that come to us, immerse them in the world of bass, and it's intense, it's tiring, it's exhausting, but people leave with a smile on their face because they just can't imagine how they can get so back in tune to that love of the bass. People ask too, what kind of kids do you get there? What age of kids? Well, it's not just kids. The cool thing about it is that it's an inter-generational experience, we have some in there, youngsters as young as 15, 17, we have gotten some in their 20s, 30s and 40 sometimes make up the bulk of our students and guys who are quote on quote, weekend warriors. We have people who have responsibilities like being US attorneys or being surgeons, or being airline pilots during the week, and they play music on the weekends. That's the bulk of our audience. So, it's all ages, we have ladies that attend our Bass Boot Camp. So it's just an experience where people from all different walks of life come together with that one common love of the bass.
Smitty: That's fantastic! Well, talk about what a person will experience during the Bass Boot Camp that you can't get anywhere else.
GV: That's a great question. I think the camaraderie is something that's very, very special. In fact, in some ways these "campers" that have gone through the camp which by now we've taught about, it's close to 400 students. They have created their own community now, so it's their camp in a sense. They've endowed scholarships to the camp so the people who maybe don't have the means to come, so that they can come, so that money wouldn't be a factor. They've done that on their own. They've done things like establish a Yahoo group where they can communicate with each other about all kinds of issues; Whether it's career issues or recording ideas, or talk about bass players that they love and enjoy, or new records. That's been one of the unique things that I never would have expected, just how myself and my partners, we started this thing but really the energy of it has expanded to where students have taken ownership of it, which really says a lot about the success of the mission.
Smitty: Yes, you and your colleagues have created an incredible avenue for bass players around the world and it's a beautiful thing. Now, you've got Joe McBride on this record.
GV: Yeah, you know, we have the core band which is Chris Farr on saxophone, Eric Greene on drums, Peter Kuzma on keyboards, Will Brock on keyboards and we've got Pablo Batista, we worked a long time together with Grover (Washington Jr.) and playing percussion and Congas he plays a great solo on "Celebrating Sipho". We also have a couple of horn players, Jeff Bradshaw a trombone player, a great solo player and Matt Cappy on trumpet who, getting back to name dropping, who worked with Maxwell. And while we were mixing the record, the one area where we had to cheat a little bit, I was hearing a little something that I needed somebody to add on one of the songs, I can't remember which song it was, I think it was a song called "Deeper", and Joe McBride just happened to be in the studio. So we asked Joe to do it. It wasn't a big feature thing that he did but it was just great. And speaking of Joe, he and I just finished working at the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz concert with the Heads Up Super Band. I don't know if you remember that project.
Smitty: Oh yeah, how could I forget.
GV: We did a really special concert with the super band which is Joe McBride, myself, Keith Carlock on drums, Kenny Blake on saxophone, Joe, of course, sings and plays piano. We had a horn section, a five piece horn section and we had three background singers. The reason why we needed all those other instruments and vocalists was because we were doing the music of Ray Charles.
GV: Yeah, that's right, so the Heads Up Super band is…., we are not promoting it as a Ray Charles concert but we are doing concerts with Heads Up Super band…. and if you come expecting the stuff on our records well, you might not get that but you're going to get the music of one of the greatest artists that has ever lived. So, it's been a lot of fun, a lot of fun. We are going to be down at Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival as the Heads Up Super Band, because I can't say we're going to play the music of Ray Charles. But in case you're there you might hear songs like "Hit the Road Jack" you know, I'm not saying that we're not going to be playing Ray Charles but in case you're there you might hear songs like “Georgia” (Both laughing), I'm not SAYING you're going to hear the music of Ray Charles (Both laughing) but you might hear songs like "(Night Time is) the Right Time", so we just have a ball with that particular project.
Smitty: Oh that is too cool man. That is great news.
GV: Oh it's a lot of fun.
Smitty: Talk to me a little about working with Keith Carlock.
GV: Keith Carlock, yes. You've been keeping up with Keith? Keith has been a busy guy, heading up our Heads Up Super Band some years ago. In the years since the Heads Up Super Band has come together, Keith has done some interesting work, aside from playing with us, Harry BelaFonte, he toured with the Blues Brothers, he toured with Steely Dan and the last couple of years he's been touring with Sting. More name dropping again but we're really proud of Keith.
Smitty: Impressive company.
GV: He's a fantastic drummer. A Mississippi boy who's got a feel like, like you just would not believe. A big ole funky groove.
Smitty: I'm digging his groove. I like the trombone thing that you've got working on this record too.
GV: Oh yeah, Jeff Bradshaw, I did some recording for his first Hidden Beach release. He's been on my last couple of records. We're good friends and I marvel at his career because he's doing for the trombone what some of us are doing from the bass. The trombone is one of these instruments that you don't think about as lead but he's changing that perception.
Smitty: I like that. I like that. I love it when you've got an instrument that is usually in the background but now you've moved it forward and it's the lead instrument and it just changes the whole vibe.
GV: It definitely does. It gives you something else to listen to and we get so accustomed to saxophone… but it's nice and there's nothing wrong with it. I mean, we've had some great saxophonist out there, making amazing music but it's nice to use something a little different.
Smitty: I don't know if you are familiar with Joe Kurasz, a phenomenal musician. He's on the east coast. He's doing what Jeff (Bradshaw) and what you are doing. He's featured the Hammond B3 as a lead instrument. It's just an incredible vibe.
GV: Yes, there's a lot of those instruments you hear it in jazz, but not in smooth jazz. And it's such a wonderful soulful instrument. In fact on our record that's one of the things that I really highlighted, which is Pete Kuzma playing organ and that really is a specialty on the record. It funny you should mention the organ
Smitty: Yes, it's a beautiful instrument. Gerald I can't say enough about this great record and its live man, it's live! (laughing).
GV: Its live baby, it's live.
Smitty: At the Jazz Base, and if you're coming through Reading, PA. you've got to stop at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base and check out the vibe. Check out Gerald's website at www.geraldveasley.com to keep up with what he doing, and if he's performing at a venue near you….. You're just having a great time (laughing).
GV: Oh we're having a ball.
Smitty: (Laughing) Now the record is available in stores.
GV: Yes, the release date was July 26th
Smitty: Alright, and it is called At The Jazz Base! From Heads Up recording artist, the amazing Gerald Veasley. This is a record that I highly recommend and I anticipate some serious airplay with this one, and a lot of success. Gerald, it's always a pleasure to talk with you, not just in these circles, but any time, and I look forward to getting back together again.
GV: Always, thank you so much Smitty.
Baldwin “Smitty” Smith