Max Bennett

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by jsbarber, Apr 3, 2016.

  1. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    To my surprise there is no thread here on TB honoring the career of Max Bennett. His is an outstanding bassist with a resume that is staggering.

    Let me begin with how I came to know of Max. When I was in high school in the early seventies we were listening to all kinds of great bands and musicians that were producing spectacular works: Stevie Wonder (Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life), Earth Wind and Fire, Pat Metheny (Bright Size Life, Watercolors, Pat Metheny Group), The Crusaders, Michael Franks, Herbie Hancock (Head Hunters), Weather Report (with this incredible new bassist named Jaco...), Billy Cobham (Spectrum), Return to Forever, all kinds of albums on the ECM and CTI labels, and the list seems to go on-and-on.

    Joni Mitchell recorded her first album with a band, Court and Spark. Shortly beforehand, Max Bennett and Tom Scott co-founded a band with some guys they were gigging with. Tom was thinking of it focusing on bebop, but Max suggested a different repertoire and they became what we thought of at the time as "jazz rock". The band was called Tom Scott and the LA Express. Apparently they were quite the sensation, with lineups several blocks long at the Baked Potato. Early on other members were Larry Carlton, Joe Sample and a really great drummer named John Guerin. Joni was living in LA at the time and when she decided to perform with an ensemble, there was her solution. The album court and spark has Max on Bass on eight of eleven tunes. This album received considerable acclaim.

    Shortly afterwards Joni release Miles of Aisles, a live album - half solo and half with the band. By that time Carleton and Sample had moved on and a young Robben Ford and Larry Nash filled their slots.

    There were a number of LA Express albums that came out, including my favorite Tom Cat with a really great tune called Rock Island Rocket Max wrote.

    Max also played on Joni's Hissing of Summer Lawns and two tunes on Hejira (with Jaco on 4 and Chuck Domanico playing double bass on 1).

    There was also the Crusaders live album Scratch that Max played on. On studio albums Wilton Felder played sax and bass, but obviously they needed a bassist for live performances. (If the name Wilton Felder is not ringing any bells, don't worry - you know his playing. He was a regular LA session guy on bass for years, and recorded a bunch Jackson 5 tunes (ABC, I'll Be There, and a killer bass line on I Want You Back, and numerous others). Max recorded with Michael Franks, and Frank Zappa (Hot Rats), so he was very much a part of the scene.

    So, since my high school days I've always known of Max as this as a jazz rock bass guitarists up there with the best of them. Well fast forward to about 6 or 8 years ago when I do a youtube search on Max Bennett and up pops this video of what looked like a high schooler playing double bass with some female vocalists. I thought - could this be Max?

    I came to hear that Max lived in SoCal so I googled him in about 2010 and found out that he lived in Dana Point and frequently played gigs in local establishments up there. I went to see him in 2011 at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach. It was an outdoor event and he performed with some excellent SoCal musicians. It was a casual thing and during the intermission I went over and spoke with him. I was very impressed by how humble and real the man is. He mentioned that he had just launched his new website. I already knew this, because I had visited it a couple of days after it went up. I noticed that on its first day up, who posted to pay respects to Max - none other than Nathan East "Congratulations on an amazing website and even more so a wonderful and compelling life and career!! You are truly a legend and major source of inspiration for me. Thanks for blazing such a trail and may God continue to bless you!"

    Something else I learned from that website is that young looking guy in that video was for sure Max Bennett. His career began well before the 70s. He played double bass with Billy Holiday, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, Elvis Presley, and the list goes on and-on and-on and-on. I mean he had a completely successful career even before he picked up the bass guitar.

    Getting back to the evening in Laguna. I asked Max what prompted him to switch to bass guitar. Very few accomplished jazz double bassists have done this, (pretty much the only one I know of that completely switched to bass guitar is Steve Swallow). Max told me that he was playing a gig at an outdoor venue and rain was forecast so he did the gig with a bass guitar because he didn't want to get his double bass wet. He liked it so much he switched to bass guitar.

    Now that I think of it, three of my favorite bass guitarists came to the BG from a jazz background on other instruments - James Jamerson - Double Bass, Wilton Felder - Sax, and Max. (I wondered too whether Wilton had played double bass before taking up BG, and I asked Rob Whitlock (a San Diego keyboard player who plays with Max and other ensembles I've seen in SD, and is originally out of Florida and knew Jaco back in the day). He said he didn't think so. He said, "he probably just got tired of telling the bass guitarists what he wanted to hear and decided to do it himself...")

    So Max Bennett is the real deal and those here on the forum who don't know his music should definitely check it out. Especially younger players, who aren't familiar with the music from that seventies time-frame - it really was a golden age.

    Max retired from studio work but still plays out in SoCal. You can go to a restaurant, order a meal, and listen to some great music from a bass legend - and all with no cover charge... can't beat that.

    Anyone else who has knowledge of Max, or stories, credits etc. Please feel free to Max-Out this thread.

    My two cents worth,


    Rock Island Rocket

    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
    msw, getrhythm, Michael4bass and 13 others like this.
  2. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    jsbarber - Kudos for giving credit to Max, as this is long overdue.

    Mike Tobias sent Max in to our shop back in the early 90's to order a Tobias 5. I only met Max a few times, but he was a true gentleman. It wasn't until years later when I realized his body of work.

    Oddly enough, my twin brother met Max's stepson a few years ago, and they are now very good friends.
    JimK likes this.
  3. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    If we never had a Max thread, it was very overlooked. I have a lot of albums that I love with his name in the credits. John Guerin is another very overlooked cat, great player!
    JimK and nixdad like this.
  4. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    this is really spooky because I was gonna do a thread on what bass he used on a good portion of Joni's "Hissing" album
    I love the gank on the bass in Edith and the Kingpin but I don't think its a P-anyone have a guess?
    JimK likes this.
  5. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    Big tom Scott and la express fan here. Dig his work on miles of aisles as well.

    Great player and groove. Primarily a p bass player with tom Scott correct?
    JimK and nixdad like this.
  6. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    Here's what Max says about his basses on his website.

    "In the early 60's I was playing string bass exclusively - a plethora of jazz gigs, studio calls and various concerts. One day I received a call to play a concert with Henry Mancini at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. I was informed that the first half of the concert I had to play out in front of the stage. The "Young Americans" needed the complete stage for their routine. I was concerned about the moisture at night harming my bass so I rented an electric bass for that part of the program. Since I was a total novice with the electric bass, it was "earn while you learn"! It was an interesting experience and I managed to get through it. From that day on I added electric bass to my resume. This also gave me an opportunity to make myself more valuable in the studios playing the vast eclectic forms of music required. My first electric bass was a Fender Precision 4-string purchased from Music City in Hollywood. That bass opened the door to a new an interesting era of music for me.

    I played this bass exclusively for the next 27 plus years until, in 1990, I acquired two handmade 5-string basses, fretted and fretless, custom made for me by Michael Tobias. In 2009, I acquired two 6-string MTD's, fretted and fretless. I cannot praise Michael Tobias' basses enough. They have the sound and quality that I admire. They are a pleasure to play!"

    The night I talked to Max in Laguna he was enthusiastically telling me about his MTD.

    You can read this and see some photos here:
    Max Bennett - The Basses

  7. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    I love Max Bennett's playing. Thanks for posting this.
    nixdad and markjazzbassist like this.
  8. bassobrutto

    bassobrutto Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2010
    Yellow Springs, Ohio
    Legend. Two of my favorites:

    JimK and jerry like this.
  9. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    First bassline I ever learned was Max Bennett on Joni Mitchell's Furry Sings The Blues. I'm a huge Mitchell and Zappa fan, so I'm familiar with at least that part of his work. One of the greats.

  10. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I've been listening to Joni Mitchell's Miles of Aisles and am really enjoying Max's playing. So effortless and perfectly supporting a great singer/songwriter. A perfect Precision bass sound to my ears. Here's Big Yellow Taxi from that album.

    jsbarber and JimK like this.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Love Bennett & the L.A. Express. Wore those LPs out!

    Bennett plays a track or two ("Bluesette" w/ Toots) on Quincy Jones' Mellow Madness...another album I wore out back in that time frame.

    I think Bennett also plays on one of my favourite Soul-Pop hits from back in the day-
    "Grazin' In The Grass" by The Friends Of Distinction
    nixdad and markjazzbassist like this.
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Nice...sounds like a touch of a phase shifter on your bass.
    I once had a '78 Schecter P-bass that sounded like that. People would come up & ask what kinda pedal I pedal.
    Never knew if it was the strings, the wiring, or the way my finger dug into the string. Weird.
  13. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    No pedals. That's the sound of my playing against the original recording playing simultaneously.
    JimK likes this.
  14. lowend1


    Feb 15, 2005
    A favorite. According to the liner notes, this is Max - and his alter ego, Danny Partridge:bassist:
    JimK likes this.
  15. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I just discovered his name when listening to the Partridge Family. He and Joe Osborn played on their albums.

    Then I started reading more about him. Wow. I'm interested in hearing more of his music.
    JimK likes this.
  16. Hachimitsu


    Jun 6, 2019
    New Zealand
    Check him out on George Harrison's Dark Horse album, love his playing on Simply Shady, very slippery rhythm section feel. Willie Weeks also on that album.
    ElectroVibe likes this.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I have always liked this arrangement...Max Bennett with Dennis Budimir on guitar. IIRC, Harvey Mason on drums.

    The Tom Scott & The L.A. Express albums + the 2 L.A. Express albums (post-Scott) are essential MB.
  18. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    his playing with the LA express with/without tom scott is excellent. he is an underrated player for sure
    JimK likes this.
  19. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    This is one of my favorites of David Cassidy with Max on bass.

  20. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    Another great song by Tony Romero.

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