Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Another Jaco question for Michael

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Tonkenna, Oct 20, 2004.


  1. Tonkenna

    Tonkenna

    Dec 15, 2003
    Loughborough, UK
    Michael,

    Over the last couple of days I've been reading a biography of Jaco (by Milkowski) that Steve lent me - it's an amazing story, and pretty tragic. I had kind of been aware that the last couple of years of his life were a bit of a struggle, but I didn't know the full reality of just quite how bad it was getting in the years coming up to his death - the way it was written seemed to indicate that there wasn't any other way it was going to end, given the person he was, and the situation he was in. But the descriptions of the musician he was, especially from those that played with him, are inspiring.

    Anyway, my question is, I have a memory that you once took some lessons with / played with Jaco (I guess this must have been the early '80s) - I believe he wasn't reknowned for his teaching, and it must have been at the more difficult time in his life. Could you give us a little insight into your experience with him? What form did the lessons take? What was he like personally? What kind of things did you get from the experience?

    Also, I just yesterday received a newly released Joni Mitchell DVD from the Shadows & Light tour - it's pure genius from beginning to end. Of all the things I've heard Jaco play, I think the Hejira material is by far the best. So inventive, complementary, appropriate, and he manages somehow never to repeat himself! It's so perfect that it's hard to believe he wasn't playing at the same time as Joni, or even in the same postcode, all his parts being recorded after the fact. I recommend the DVD wholeheartedly.

    Lastly, any news on your album? I think there's a lot of people waiting agog for it.......

    Cheers,

    Phil

    P.S. I realise you must get questions like this all the time, sorry to bother you with it again!
     
  2. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Hi Phil,

    No bother at all -- I’m happy to answer your questions!

    I did study briefly with Jaco when I lived in NYC in the early eighties. He was often in pretty bad shape then so I had to try to catch him on better days. Sadly, he got significantly worse as time went on. As you know, he was quite ill with bipolar disorder and had an almost unbelievable self-destructive streak. You‘re right in suggesting he wasn’t all that methodical a teacher. If his students didn’t ask a lot of questions there usually wasn’t much of a lesson! Fortunately for me, I had about a billion questions and he was very gracious in answering them. He was also remarkably supportive. He liked to play together, and sometimes after a little duet on some standard or other he would slap my hand and say, “You’re the baddest!” I doubt I ever deserved the compliment, but his kindness was a real encouragement. His behavior was all over the map, but beneath all that turmoil and conflict I believe there was a very intelligent and sweet person. Ultimately what I got out of the lessons was more personal than musical. I had already studied his playing quite a bit on my own and seen him play many times so I think I had a decent basic grasp of his approach. The more significant experience for me had to do with learning about who he was and how that related to the music he made.

    Thanks so much for asking about my new CD. It’s all recorded and mixed -- I’m just trying to sort out the cover art and such. Sorry to be so slow!
     
  3. Tonkenna

    Tonkenna

    Dec 15, 2003
    Loughborough, UK
    Michael,

    Thanks for that, an interesting insight. Your reply could have almost been a page from the biography! It sounds like NYC was an amazing place for music in the early eighties. Did you play with any other especially good or memorable musicians around that time? It must have been a difficult time to be a 'solo'-style bassist in the shadow of all the relatively recent things Jaco had done.

    I'll be coming to a couple of your shows with Steve next week - I think, Brighton, and hopefully Colchester. Looking forward to them very much. Can I make a request? - I know you must get asked all the time, but could you play Enormous Room at one of these shows? I could probably listen to you tuning up and be satisfied, and I'm eager to hear your new material, but that piece is a bit special.

    Oh, and, La Sagrada Famillia, and, and, Selene, and Helios, and Music for Funambulists, and 3 Moons, and Fire Sermon. And your Beatles medley.

    Did I miss anything out?

    Cheers,

    Phil
     
  4. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Something about this sentence just brought a tear to my eye (seriously! :D). That's such a wonderful memory to hold, Michael. :)
     
  5. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks, Stephanie. I do feel very lucky to have had the chance to hang out with Jaco a bit. There were several poignant moments like that.

    Thanks for coming to the show in Brighton, Phil! I'm sorry I didn't get to all those tunes -- maybe I can do a few in Colchester?

    The early Eighties were an interesting time to be a musician in New York. I'm sorry to report I didn't get much support for my attempts to be a solo bassist there. I got the impression folks thought it was a really weird thing to want to do at the time, although my meager abilities probably didn't help the situation much. I did find a more receptive audience in California and that's what led me to move there in 1985. I guess it takes a lot more to be considered "weird" in San Francisco!
     
  6. Tonkenna

    Tonkenna

    Dec 15, 2003
    Loughborough, UK
    Michael,

    Thanks, I think you got most of the things I was looking for at Colchester. Selene was as beautiful as I remember it, and La Sagrada Familia is always excellent. Greetings Earthlings (?) that you played in Brighton bodes well for the new album, it was very striking. I know you have a good excuse for the album taking a bit longer, but we're all agog here......

    One last question (honest, assuming it doesn't lead to others) - it's obvious when you play that you love the music you're playing, that you're really enjoying the sounds. Do you get the same enjoyment when you're playing alone? When you're practising and you come out with a cracking performance? How much of your enjoyment comes from other people pleasure at the music you're making? On your DVD you talk about the neccessity for you of making music and experiencing emotion through it - is the important thing communicating your experience of emotion through music to others, or is it the internal experience itself which is the aim?

    Hopefully next time you're over, you and Steve can make it a little further north, save me the drive and sleep loss.... (obviously worth it, though). The venue John Lester played at in Leicester last week would suit you guys well I think.

    Anyhow, thanks again, it was great to see you over here, and above and beyond the call of duty, given current circumstances. :)

    Cheers,

    Phil
     
  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    You sure ask good questions, Phil! I do love playing music, whether anyone is listening or not, but there is a big difference between practicing and performance for me. Practicing is very fulfilling but there’s something almost magical that happens when you get a chance to play for an audience. Maybe it’s some kind of ritualistic thing that’s part of our collective unconscious, but I find I hear differently in performance and playing live seems to make some aspects of music more clear to me. One of the things I love about music is that dual, individual/communal nature of it and I wouldn’t want to be without either aspect. It’s a really intriguing subject as it gets down to questions about what individuality is and how communication works.

    Thanks so much for coming to our shows last week. We’re going to have to give you some kind of award!
     
  8. Tonkenna

    Tonkenna

    Dec 15, 2003
    Loughborough, UK
    Yeah, well, I obviously spend too much time thinking about others playing bass and not enough time playing ....... there is a new band and some new music in the offing though.

    It would be great to be technically good enough to make that deeper connection with an audience - my technique isn't good enough to remove those constraints so I am restricted in the things I can say, to the point where I'm not endeavouring to convey emotion (is groove an emotion?), I'm merely trying to play a piece of music correctly (and musically). The connection with the audience is then measured by the number of people dancing! That can be magic too, when it happens.

    You're right, it is fascinating, if you play Enormous Room, you are attempting to say something, to convey some subtle feeling. I listen, and am moved in some way by the sounds you make. Am I feeling the same emotion you are trying to convey? Does that uncertainty lessen the communication/experience for the performer and listener? And is that the essence of a satisfying performance - the feeling of successful communication? Or is it enough that you enjoy playing it, and I enjoy listening to it? I guess that it helps when you reach a point where your technique is good enough to free your voice rather than defining it.

    >Thanks so much for coming to our shows last week.
    >We’re going to have to give you some kind of award!

    I don't think so - after all, I only drove for a couple of hours. You flew for 11 hours to play, and stayed at Steve's for a week - that's proper commitment!
     
  9. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    The important thing is that you spend time THINKING! That’s a good thing.