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Jack Casady fans: How would you describe his playing?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Blackbird, Feb 22, 2004.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Of all influential bassists from the 60's, JC is the one whose playing I know the least. I've heard a few Jefferson Airplane recordings, but his style is still elusive to me.

    Anthony Jackson loves the guy, so I'm definitely interested.

    So, Jack Casady fans, what would you say makes him a distinctive bassist? Can you also suggest recordings? Thanks.
  2. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Anthony Jackson also made me aware of Casady.I figured if AJ likes him, then there has gotta be something to him.

    There is an interesting Jefferson Airplane live album called IIRC "Bless it's tiny pointed head." .....or something close to that. It has some crazy tones there. He also played on some stuff with Hendrix. A few cuts on Electric Ladyland.

    I will have to dig out my albums to figure out what he was on. Maybe someone could help me here?

    I saw Casady do a clinic in Boston about ten years ago with Jorman Kaukemen. <sp?> AKA: Hot Tuna. They Just played duets and it sounded alright to me....I prefer his playing in a group setting. To me, his playing is nebulous. Hard to describe, yet very apparent. It just sounds natural and right.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I'm with both you guys...back in the day, Casady was not someone I paid a lot of attention to. I also read AJ's comments(I liked Bruce better & AJ sez Bruce was not an influence).
    Maybe it's Casady's use of the pick + his lines are not really groove-oriented or phat-bottomed...they're more like counter-melodies & seem to float above what the drums & guitar are doin'?
    I'm no authority on the Airplane, also waiting for a true Casady fan to speak out.
  4. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    I'd describe his playing as solid, unwavering. Definately a Grade-A Groover. :bassist:
  5. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    Lemme take a stab at it.....
    back when I was just starting on the bass (after years of trumet and classical piano training), I had it in my head that there was more to this instrument than what people were showing/telling me. To me there was this deep and poignant sound which demonstrated possibilities far beyond the simple root-note pumping I was being told, at that time, was bass playing.

    Then someone loaned me that very Airplane album, "Bless It's Pointed lLttle Head"...as well a "Crown Of Creation" and that first, eponymous Hot Tuna album. And, there it was, as if the heavens had opened up! Yes, an epiphany of sorts.
    Suddenly, I knew what "bass-playing" really was.

    In a brief description, which is difficult with a style as deep and as well formed as Casady's, Jack's playing puts the bass upfront, yet not in a "solo" context; rather on par with the other instruments. In fact, his lines engage in a musical dialouge with the other instruments, while never upstaging them. Unlike some bassists who's lines seem to poke around here and there without ever really getting anyplace, or having much direction (or much to say), Casady's lines always get right to the heart of the matter (and always in the most original, clever and wholly musical ways), develop along the manner of well formed melodies, ebb and flow with dynamics, tension and release, and always seem to know precisely where to go and when (the man has some incredible musical radar!). Root note pedals, suspensions (even suspensions as pedal tones), counter melodies, high register runs, chordal injections, harmony and unsion melodic development,masterful right and left hand dynamics,an uncanny an unflinching ability to groove as deep and as hard as anyone ever has, and an intensity of being "in the moment"...and tone from above! These are all sigantures of the "Casady Sound".
    All these things are why AJ is so deeply moved by Casady's playing.

    The man is also one of the deepest, and most profound "students" of bass tone ever. A pioneer of both bass amplification, bass overdrive (his verastone overdrive tone is still a standard by which many OD's are measured) and active electronics (his experiments, with Mr. Turner and Wickersham led to the development of active electronics and the Alembic bass....of which #0001 he was the owner of. Wel, when you think of "modern bass tone", Mr Casady pretty much invented it......or at very least had a considerable hand in that development!

    I should point out that Casady mostly did, and still does, play fingerstyle (even in the pick-happy 60s he was using fingers). He has one of the greatest command and knowledge of right hand dynamics of any bassist alive. In the late 80s he did a brief stint using thumbpicks while playing with the band SVT, but has never been much of a flatpick user. His 60s tone with the Jefferson Airplane was considerably brighter than many of his contemporaries (starting with Fender Jazz basses..then to Guild Starfires with heavily modified active electronics then to the very first Alembic), yet always maintained a full bottom (there is a sort of famous story of him going to the Alembic "factory" and being shown a 60,000 watt amp they had on loan from the Air Force to do sub sonic testing with..Jack quickly quipped "that'll handle my lows, now what are gonna get to run the highs...") He was also one of the first to really use amp overdrive as a tone control (controlled thru right hand dynamics)..perhaps this is where the confusion over "pick-work" comes from.

    I had the privilage of meeting him once, and (besides all of the above) he is a very kind, warm and generous man...who quite freely shared his vast knowledge of bass and music.

    I have a few "bass heroes"; players who's music and playing has so deeply inspired me...it is, believe it or not a short list (there is a long list of musicians, but a fairly short list of bassists). Jack Casady is right up there. And...his name is on my bass, too.

  6. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Well said Max, you covered the bases (ouch!) very nicely.

    I remember seeing the Airplane around 1970, as being absolutely crushed by the hugeness of Casady's sound...and this was outdoors. The modified Starfire (with all of 14 knobs I think) was totally unlike anything I'd experienced. The only other guy in that ballpark back then was Phil Lesh, but Jack had Miles and guys like that coming to check him out; you just can't overstate how iconic he was back then.

    I'd recommend Bless It's Pointed Little Head, Crown of Creation, and the first two Tuna albums as most representative of his style and majesty. The solo on "Candyman" on the first, acoustic HT album is a monument to economy, finesse, tension and release, and all that good stuff.

    As far as stylistic distinctiveness, it's all about the right hand, twitchy fingerstyle, eyebrows, and contrapuntal approach. A player who spoke with his bass, not his mouth. I'm kinda glad to finally hear him vocalize once in a while now, after his infamously mute stage presence back in the day.

    --Charlie Escher
  7. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    He always struck me as being sorta like Phil Lesh-- lots of counteproint and melody, but with more of a groove. I certainly learned most of my right-hand stuff from him..... and Hot Tuna isn't just a duet, by the way.
  8. And don't forget "Burgers"
  9. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Max, you said everything I wanted to say, and more.

    The most definitive cuts off 'Bless its Pointed Little
    Head' are '3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds', 'It's No Secret",
    and 'Somebody to Love.' These versions are all
    significantly different than the original studio
    recordings. One of the things that always moved
    me about his style was his authoratative use of
    chord voicings slipped in to his funky lines. The
    master of WHOMP!

    I very recently acquired 'Live at the Fillmore
    East' which,though recorded within months
    of the BIPLH, is markedly different in tone
    and treatment of the overlapping material.
    The liner notes address this,noting that
    this band and their material grew up and
    evolved on the road, and they were always
    exploring stylistically.

    Note that when Paul Kantner recruited Jack
    for the band, Jack was already of veteran of a
    James Brown tour iirc, and James didn't use
    any shabby musicians back then. Not bad
    credentials for a kid heading into a rock band.
    They broke through fast.

    Personally, I think Jack is the most important
    rock bassist to have emerged from the 60's and
    70's, even more than Lesh or Bruce, and truly
    made the Airplane's signature sound come
  10. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    I've been a huge Lesh fan for years. I really love his style. Thanks to many of you I'm going to have to take a much closer look at Jefferson Airplane and JC. Your descriptions of his playing style sound very close to what I would say about Phil. I can't beleive I've missed out on Cassidy all these years. Time to head to the record store.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    I personaly tried to model my playing after him. Jack's tone i would say lately is the most natural acoustic sound i have ever heard out of a professional bassist. Jack plays over the cords with some varience to add melody to his lines and is very tastefull as to what he does for a song.
  12. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Whoa, dude, if you heard me play, you knew there were 3 guys
    I learned from. Phil was always awesome . I have lived and breathed his lines for years. Jack just stoned my soul since 1966 and Jack Bruce knew no limits. Hard to stay on the one when that stuff is in your head.. ;)

    BIPLH you will likely have to order, but it is still in print, afaik.

    Do not pass GO, proceed to the next dedrecordhedshop and plunk down a few bones. My excuse for missing the 60's and 70's had different reasons ...

  13. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    He is also on Jorma Kaukonen's (note spelling) acoustic lesson tape
    where he plays support backup, very easy and nice. Unobtrusive.
    'The ACOUSTIC GUITAR of Jorma Kaukonen' pub by
    Homspun Video. Throwback hippies near Woodstock NY put it out.
    Good people.
  14. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    BIPLH you will likely have to order, but it is still in print, afaik.

    Just remastered, as are all the rest of the first 4 Airplane albums, according to a radio blurb I heard on the way to work today.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    Just a side note, Jack Casady has the first alembic!


    Feb 28, 2004

  17. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Max summed it up great.......I've got front row seats to see Jack this coming sunday.....F*&cking stoked!!! The first time I saw Jack Casady play was 35 years ago........man I'm like old & stuff :cool:
  18. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Jerry, check in, we want to hear about Jack!

    How was the show ?????????

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