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Eberhard Weber, bass in the foreground!

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I went to see Jan Garbarek's Jazz quartet last night and really enjoyed it.

    What struck me though was how Eberhard Weber was sitting right in the middle of the stage and was dominating the music - in the ensemble pieces. So whether it was incredibly fast finger plucking in high'ish register, bowing in Cello range or very abrasive sawing on the lower strings, plucked harmonics or unison lines with Garbarek - his sound was central to everything and gave the music its unique "character" sonically.

    It made me think why there aren't more people doing this, but I suppose it's to do with the character of the bass player as much as anything and I was amused by this interview that I found on the net - I have copied a small part below, which relates to this :

    "Tell me about the factors in your decision to transition from double bass to the electric upright.

    The regular bass doesn't have many possibilities. The reason I switched to electric bass is because music became very loud in the late '60s and the double bass couldn't be heard anymore. I realized I could put pick-ups on my double bass, but found out when you play at a certain volume, you suffer from feedback because of resonance from the body. So, it was only logical to find an instrument which has no feedback. There was a solid body I saw in an antique shop. It was totally broken but I got it repaired. I added a pick-up and thought "From now on, this is my instrument." I discovered that it was absolutely wrong because I still played the way I played on the double bass.

    Initially, I didn't change the attitude with the electric bass. It took one year before I felt comfortable on this kind of instrument. I found you are a different bass player because now you can lead. You can tell people where to go onstage which you couldn't do before. The drummer and trumpeter could always lead, but the bass player couldn't simply because of volume. But even though you can put an amplifier on double bass and it can play loud, it still cannot lead because it still has this kind of background-ish sound that is not meant to lead. But with the instrument I have, you can play background, in the middle or foreground. Whatever you do, it can be heard. So they have to deal with you. Many musicians don't like that, certainly not the conservative ones.

    Frankly spoken, the bass is kind of a silly instrument. How can someone pick an instrument that is not meant to play solos or be a leader? Even Charlie Mingus—he was an excellent bass player, but he didn't lead from his bass, but from himself, from his ego. And of course, after I had discovered the kind of electrical bass I use now, I noticed that I can also lead acoustically in terms of sound with the bass, in a way that even Mingus couldn't. When someone played full force in his time with the bass, you couldn't hear it. Nowadays, you can do whatever you want on the bass or any instrument. Sometimes, when I play with a German all-star group which does a sort of jazzy music, the front line complains about my volume because they're not used to hearing the bass. So, I'm in between the lines or in between the seats as they say in Germany. [laughs]"

    [ http://www.innerviews.org/inner/weber.html ]

    As I was sitting in the front row, directly in front of him - he was certainly coming across loud and clear from my seat!! ;)
  2. Are you still planning to buy an accoustic bass after reading this and seeing the man in action Bruce?

    Thanks for the review - I'll tell you what the Manchester concert was like to my ears tomorrow!

    Best wishes
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I do like his playing and I do like the ECM Jazz sound - but I think he is unique "There can only be one Eberhard Weber" if you like!! ;)

    I don't think I'll ever be able to play like him - especially his fast runs and fluid solos incorporating chords etc.

    So - if I want to play Jazz with other people - I see two ways - be an incredibly good player/composer, stick to your guns, fit the music around your bass talents and make people like what you do! Or, play DB and fit in with what the majority are doing in Jazz!! :D

    So I think from my point of view the latter is more realistic!!

    But what I have re-thought, is using bow on EUB - I actually preferred Weber's bowed sound a lot of the time and I might well buy one and have a go - having seen him at close quarters and how he approaches it, I think I could be missing out on not bowing my EUB....

    Onto next thread :

    "What bow should I buy for my EUB? " ;)
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ...well, I was at a master class yesterday lead by Dave Young, an acoustic bassist of sublime talent and much experience.

    Dave absolutely, without doubt was the leader of that ensemble. Not just in the sense of hiring the players, calling tunes, getting gigs. In a musical sense, Dave was not afraid to call the shots and move the music around in real time. Being able to move the music around, through harmony or rhythm, is one of the basic experiences and most beautiful feelings of bass-playing. What planet is Eberhard coming from when he says a thing like that?

    I think Weber's statement about acoustic bass being a silly instrument, not having possibilities, not capable of being heard or of leading, is what on this side of the pond we call "a crock" -- it's BS, baby. It sounds like what someone from the early days of the electric/acoustic era might have thought and said, but I'm surprised that an intelligent, sensitive and experienced musician would still subscribe to that idea. He is, of course, entitled to his opinions, his taste, and his sound but that doesn't mean we have to respect it.

    I'm familiar with some of his playing and I have liked it very much in the past when I lived and breathed ECM; haven't heard much of him in the past 20 years. His musical voice can command respect. Based on your citation though, Bruce, I think his opinion of the double bass is laughable.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I agree that people like Avishai Cohen, Ben Allison, Dave Holland etc. do successfully lead ensembles - but I think he's talking about being the featured soloist - maybe something like Jaco did - that seems to be quite rare in straight- ahead Jazz.

    I really like his playing - but I did find myself thinking : hmmmm... that sounds a bit fretless BG at times and at others like a Cello - but at other times very "acoustic" - I think he's trying to have the best of several worlds - great if you can pull it off. But I think it won't please everybody in the way that a classic, acoustic, small Jazz group will.

    So - it needs the right group and the right gear to make it all work - as it quite clearly does with Jan Garbarek. But I bought the EW ECM compilation and there are some tracks where I tend to think - this doesn't really work - like the Gary Burton group with two bassists?
  6. I think the key ot hte pasage is in this "But even though you can put an amplifier on double bass and it can play loud, it still cannot lead because it still has this kind of background-ish sound that is not meant to lead. But with the instrument I have, you can play background, in the middle or foreground. Whatever you do, it can be heard." in the context of the sound he gets and his palying. His bass is designed to get a series of overtones (he said this) he wants, and the sound has an edge and a body that a DB couldn't get unless it was routed through effects, and then it is doubtful it would have the same type of attack/shape to the note. This is NOT a volume issue, its a quality of sound issue that indeed puts his bass in the foreground. For those that haven't heard Weber, it has to be pointed out that his bass sounds nothing like a DB and is more complex than a fretless (or other EUBs I've heard which I admit is few).

    Weber used it to great effect last night. It dominates space that requires everyone else stays out of the way. The group though has a sax player with one of the most distinctive and controlled sounds of anyone, a percussionist of amazing rythmic and tonal imagination, and a keyboard/piano player who manages extreme sensitivity whilst still able to be busy if he wants. Now at this point is has to be said that this outfit have been together for years, and are all the highest calibre of musicians. I know of no act that immitates their style and seeming implicity of tunes and delivery.

    This was carried out in a 2.5 hour continous set to massive applause last night. One thing that is commonly reported about Eberhard is his arrogance, so that and the fact that he was talking live probably got him to unsustainable hyperbole in the heat of the moment to call a DB 'silly'. After all, if making noise were the only objective, why use five difficult long strings (as on Eberhard's EUB) as your musical interface - with todays technology there should be no limits and a more imaginative interface. The silly one is Weber.

    Great musicain though in a truly great band.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - his sound and approach works really well in that band - but probably wouldn't work so well in more "conventional" Jazz. They cross over between Jazz and the European Art Music and Classcial scenes - at times, his bass was contributing to an almost orchestral feel, sometimes it was like folk music, sometimes like funky Jazz etc. etc.

    But that's what he wants to do and ECM keep putting out the albums that sell OK, they play tours to sold-out, large venues - so it works out well for all! :)
  8. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Have you heard his solo albums? Wonderful stuff.
    I really like, and recommend, his latest (?) one "Endless Days", which has Paul McCandless on woodwinds, Rainer Brüninghaus on keys (same guy who plays in the Garbarek Group, I think) and Michael DiPasqua on drums.
    It is in a way both classical and jazz, I'd say, somehow. Lend it an ear, as we say in Norway.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Rainer Bruninghaus...what a player, man. I saw him make beautiful music on the most disgraceful POS upright piano in nightclub history in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Totally out of tune...he used the bad notes as drones, and built amazing music around them, never complaining once.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think that applied to a lot of the music that Jan Garbarek's quartet played - they never seem sure in stores and charts, where to put Garbarek and Eberhard Weber - I've seen them in both Jazz and Classical sections!

    I like that sort of music - that crosses boundaries - most of my favourite Jazz, of the acts that I've seen live in the UK recently, have been "fusions" of some sort - whether with Classical, Jimi Hendrix, Palestinian Music, Afro Cuban...etc. etc.
  11. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    Can't resist chiming in just to say I'm glad to see Weber's name come up and that I'm turning 6 shades of green that you've been able to see him live. I doubt I will ever get the chance.

    I hope his less than charitable comments on the double bass will not be taken too badly on this forum.

    I love everything the man does (and especialy Endless Days which is also notable for Michael DiPasqua's drumming IMHO)


  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    My girlfriend bought tickets for my birthday and the seats were right in the front row and we were sitting directly in front of Eberhard Weber - couldn't have been better!! :)
  13. [ shameless EgoBoost mode on ]
    same position as me watching NHOP last summer :D
    [ shameless EgoBoost mode off ]