Posts Tagged ‘bass’



[Pictue of Tal Wilkenfeld playing bass guitar]The buzz about Tal Wilkenfeld is that she is (a) a bassist; (b) young; (c) female; (d) good looking; and (e) Australian.

I find all that a bit silly to be frank. That she is such a talent is enough — it is merely a matter of secondary interest that she is a girl.

Maybe the surprise is not that she’s a girl, but that a girl got the breaks and made it to the top.

Is she Good-looking? Well, I think she is — and so do loads of commenters on YouTube and forums — but I don’t think she thinks she is good-looking — and I like that even more. She does not dress up, she’s no Candy Dulfer, no high heels, no split skirt. No, Tal wears trainers or boots, jeans and a tee shirt. No make-up. No need. And she makes goofy faces and just generally seems not very self-aware.

In short, she reminds me a LOT of my bass-playing wife!

I had heard there was a buzz in the scene, and I went to see her play with Jeff Beck in Glasgow — and she was superb. I must say, though, that I have been more “blown Away” with stuff I have seen her play on YouTube.

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For example, I have two recordings of Angel’s Footsteps on Jeff Beck albums, and they are both live — one is 22 July 2006 in Japan, the other is the Official USA Bootleg version also from 2006 — and I’m afraid that Tal’s version on YouTube kicks both of them out of the park. After hearing how Tal connects with Vinnie and the rest of the band, Pino Palladino’s work pales considerably — and that is no mean feat; Pino was in Jools Holland’s band and is the bassist with The Who, so he’s no fool.

I was discussing this recently, and it seems that Jeff Beck’s band was mostly British, despite what the names sound like; Jason Rebello is an English keyboard wiz., Pino Palladino is Welsh!

Having an American Rhythm section would change the band too much (the drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, is American), so Tal, being Australian, could therefore be the perfect fit — enough American, but still a bit British somehow, still slightly on the outside of the native scene.

But all that speculation aside, she has talent — and more to the point she blends perfectly into the band. Pino — IMHO — just did not connect as well as Tal. Listen to the dropped beats, the missed timings, the misunderstandings — they are all there on record.

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How delicious is THAT clip? (I already linked to it on my Jeff Beck post) — her licks, her connection to the Jeff on entering the bridge, the serious connection with Vinnie’s ticking rolls, the build-up, paradiddles, she’s so instinctive in support, and also in fills in the gaps and push-pulls with the timing — and she seems to add chemistry, fun, to the band! And that brings out the best in them.

Can I just say that I cannot get enough of this video, I must listen to it once every day or so, and I appreciate it more each time.

So while I can see why her being Australian works with the band, I don’t see it as important out of that context. In other words, it should only be mentioned when others’ nationalities/ backgrounds/ cultures are mentioned; in itself it’s nothing.

There are plenty of female bass players — Carol Kaye, Suzi Quatro, Jackie Fox, Tina Weymouth, Julie Slick, etc., but what makes Tal different is that she’s exceptionally talented as a jazz bassist; she has her own voice.

Now, a lot of people compare her to Jaco Pastorius, and that’s daft; Jaco invented stuff, played fretless and so on. But it’s something to be mentioned in that kind of company, it’s enough to have debates about that — no one in their right mind would do that with Julie Slick or Tina Weymouth.

  • To me, Tal does Jeff Berlin better than Jeff Berlin; she’s got a better sensitivity to the overall work and to the band.

If she wants she can sometimes evoke Jaco’s phrasing such as at the beginning of this  Live Freeway Jam with Jeff Beck:

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Transformation‘ is the name of Tal’s debut album. It is fabulous — just go and get a copy; you will wear it out listening to it. I love it! Tal is amazing and Wayne Krantz’s guitar is superbly “out of the box”.

Regarding her age — I find that part really annoying. What age was Jaco Pastorius, Hendrix, Clapton et al when they  were at their peaks? That’s right – in their early 2os. So give her a break!

Tal is a great bassist, definitely the world’s best ever female bass-player, the best bass player produced by Oz, and one of the world’s best bass players around today.

She’s also not hard on the eye.

Go Tal!

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[Picture of Jeff Beck playing his guitar]What a brilliant gig tonight.  Last time I saw Jeff Beck it was at the Glasgow Apollo a zillion years ago.  That gig stayed with me; it was just astounding!

Back then I used to go to a lot of gigs, particularly at the Apollo.  I had got used to the whole thing, y’know, and then I was in my seat waiting for the Jeff Beck gig to start when I noticed that there was not all the usual massive columns of loudspeakers at each side of the stage.  It was very sparse looking.  I came away utterly amazed at the clarity of Beck’s sound that night; it was true High Fidelity.  Top notch quality, and that gig has always remained for me the benchmark ever since.  Quite simply the best sounding gig I have ever been too. It was even in stereo — the engineers would pan the guitar notes right round the place, especially on “The Final Peace”.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is mince in comparison.  Beck still sounded really good, but it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as the old Apollo that night back in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The Concert Hall has no atmosphere at all.  Honestly, anywhere else and everyone would have been up boogying and dancing in the aisles, and surrounding the front of the stage. But, not tonight; everyone sat nice and clapped at the right bits. Gawd!

There were a few surprises in the set list — although he did “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, it was just a wee bit — it merged into “Brush with the Blues”. He also did a version of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” (a bass riff which I heard knicked sampled a few years back for some Ibiza dance trance crap). They also did a version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, which was a crowd pleaser.

Ever since I bought Beck’sBlow by Blow” LP back in the late 1970s, I have loved Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” — that was a massive influence on my playing style at the time (I was playing a Les Paul back then).  It was simply gorgeous tonight, what a virtuoso!

I am a fan of Nitin Sawney, and have all his albums, so I know “Nadia” intimately — and, I recently happened to be searching YouTube for Sawney’s stuff when we came across Beck’s astonishing version.  Played live was fantastic.  A real worth-it moment.

Teenie-tiny-wee Tal Wilkenfeld got herself going on the cheeky bass line start to “You Never Know”.  She’s a real find — reminds me of my Ruthie when she plays — same daft facial expressions and surprising licks. She was really solid on “Stratus” and “The Pump” and “Big Block” — those tracks are murder for a rhythm section, and far from being showy, just robotic power riffs… and bespectacled Vinnie Colaiuta was pretty amazing on these tracks in particular too — a big fat full drum sound. The rhythm section was tight and very solid (much needed for Beck’s style), and that included the supporting figure in the shadows, Jason Rebello.

Tal and Vinnie did solo spots, and they were “nice”.

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I was disappointed to be honest, because I wanted Tal to blow my socks off, but then it was Glasgow Concert Hall, and everyone was just sitting there like plums.

The night was about Jeff Beck.  He’s the man. At one point he joined Tal, and together they played her bass at the same time, he played at the nut and she played up the neck!  A 4-hander, that was the fun (and show-offy) bit.

They also did “Blue Wind” and the reggae-ish “Behind The Veil”, and I was again reminded that in the old days and places, there would have been dancing!

They did a couple of encores, and I queued at the toilet, exchanging banter with loads burstin’ middle-aged rockers before heading home to check out Tal’s website and listen to all the stuff he didn’t do.

Now, Beck played a Les Paul on “Blow by Blow” in 1975 and switched to a Stratocaster for the next album, “Wired“.  It’s the tremolo that makes the difference.  He’s played a Strat ever since — a nice white one. He gargles the tremolo, plays without a plectrum (he uses his thumbnail), fades using the pot (rather than a pedal), and really, really, takes risks.

For example, on “Blow by Blow”, years ago, he played a note, then pitched it up, bending the string — but in stages, precise intervals up and down on one pluck, note clear and pitch perfect.

Tonight, he did that, and a tremolo version of it, whereby he would strike the note, and play a melody using the lever of the whammy bar alone — again, precise intervals, small movements of the trem arm down and up – genius and virtuosity, and huge balls to take the chance.

He also did weird things with the glass slide — playing right up at the bridge (where a couple of millimetres is a big margin of error).  Honestly, from slides, pull-offs, tapping, fake harmonics, fake-harmonic-tremolo-pitched and heaven-knows what-else, Beck showed that the guitar is a part of him, that it grows out of him, that he communicates with it — it’s his voice. Angel (Footsteps) was mind-blowing, seriously:

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There’s no shredding or lead solos, but there’s no chord work, riffs or seriously fancy effects.  And he isn’t playing like a Spanish, classical or Jazz guitarist, either.  It’s just odd — he’s just Jeff Beck — a genre of his own, I guess.

Apparently he was ranked the 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. That doesn’t show what a massive influence on guitarists over the years, Jimmy Page was his bass player at one time, and when he left the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton took over — and when Eric left, that’s when Page took up the guitar!  They all had to learn Beck’s parts.

“Blow by Blow” and “Wired” created a new genre for the electric guitar, a sort of blues-jazz thing that was sort of rock — a genre for Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Steve Khan and loads more to develop.  I really do think Beck is underrated and that he deserves Hall of Fame, knighthoods and everything else.

Oh, and a big happy birthday to ya, Mr. Beck — 65 a few days ago!




I know that some people just adore John Martyn‘s music.  He has a loyal fanbase indeed.  These fans would have been delighted that John just got awarded the honour of an OBE — but then everything is overshadowed by his death yesterday.

When I was growing up, John was just a neighbourhood character.  He was often seen out and about — at The Malletsheugh or Eglinton Arms Hotel. He had an absolutely dreadful reputation — but to be fair to the man he was, at the time, in the throes of a very messy divorce.  When I met him the most, he was not at his best!

For a start, I was not a fan of folk music back then, so I would never have bought any John & Beverley Martyn recordings.

But then I admired his strange guitar techniques — I mean to say,  this guy was deft with the special effects at the time — an acoustic through effects and a bizarre sort-of finger-plucking style to create a wall of trippy sound.  It was amazing to watch.  Yes, the man had talent.  I quite liked “One World” for that (although  I could not take the slurring vocal stylisations for long periods), but I also found that it was altogether too morose.  Martyn’s music was sad — and that is popular — through Pink Floyd down to the pop artists today — Radiohead and Coldplay and the like, sad stuff sells. Martyn’s pal, Nick Drake was also melancholy — and in fact died from an overdose of anti-depressants.  We are talking about seriously bleak and introspective music here!

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I remember that John Martyn had a cousin — called David Roy was a Marc Bolan look-alike, and he was pretty talented too — he played flute, guitar and sax in a middle-of-the-road lounge jazz band called  “The Arthur Trout Band”.  The twist was that it was “Gongy” — sort-of Steve Hillage meets Spyro Gyra. I think they played a couple of live gigs too — but let’s face it, there wasn’t much of a scene back then — very few places had live music. I think I remember them doing a gig at The Burn’s Howff as soon as it was legal (we all were fifth and sixth year school pupls).

The Trout’s bassist was a lovely chap called Neil Fairweather. Neil looked exactly like Neil from the Young Ones! At Eastwood High (which we all attended), there was an art teacher who made violins.

At that time, although there was a lot of DISCO and PUNK about, serious musicians were into Jaco Pastorius and his fretless bass playing with Joni Mitchell and Weather Report. Jaco had removed the frets using pliers.  The sound was new and wonderful — it even filtered down to pop music, such as Paul Young’s “Wherever I Hang My Hat” and Kate Bush’s “Babooshka”.  I think it was Brit John Giblin who played the fretless, sliding, bass lines for Kate Bush.

Anyway back at the art department at Eastwood High, the teacher, myself, and Neil Fairweather, carefully removed all the frets from Neil’s Gretsch semi-acoustic bass with great success.  Neil was an absolutely brilliant bass player — and could do all the Jaco style runs, slides and chords for The Arthur Trout Band. I think his brother had composed an Eurovision Song and was working as a composer/ arranger or session musician back then, so Neil was from good musical stock.

John Martyn actually used John Giblin (from Kate Bush) as bassist on “Grace and Danger“, and needed someone good enough to handle the fretless parts for a promotional tour.  He naturally thought of his nephew’s band and Neil Fairweather, and left a tape with David Roy.

As I remember it, the guitarist of their band, Alan Thomson (who was a brilliant lead guitarist/ shredder),  learned the bass part from the tape and was hired instead of Neil to begin a long career as a working musician. I thought it quite sad that Alan seemed to have dropped his “own” or “real” band — his friends, Tim Britten, Dave Roy, Neil Fairweather and Jim Prime.

But I think Neil got the better deal, for John Martyn was infamously difficult to work with at that time.  After years with Island Records, John Martyn was without a deal.  He said himself that this was the lowest period of his entire life!

Eventually, John signed with WEA and recorded “Glorious Fool” with young Alan Thomson, Phil Collins and Eric Clapton — I know this entirely because of gossip and chat, rather than through hearing any of the songs.

I have always felt sorry for Alan Thomson, it can’t have been a very nice experience for such a young guy. Martyn was “Old School” — heck, even though he was around the 30 year mark, my Dad was one of his drinking buddies — and you cannot get more old school than that!  Heavy drinking, drugs, bad diet, years on the B roads, struggling to make it famous.  I only know that I couldn’t do it.

In fact, when I was faced with signing up with a record label, I ran a mile in the opposite direction, and it was almost entirely down to what I saw happen to Alan with John Martyn.

But that was a great many years ago.

I saw part of an interview on TV with John Martyn a couple of years ago, and he seemed a lot nicer — wiser too.  He didn’t exactly look a picture of health, but hey, he’d had his leg amputated and was still doing pub gigs from a wheelchair! But, somehow,  I could relate to his outlook, sure he was still a “character” in the old-school grumpy cantankerous style, but had somehow mellowed into a lovable colourful auld rogue.

It has been at least a decade since I bumped into Alan Thomson. He had moved back to East Renfrewshire — Giffnock, I think — and was renovating antiques between jobs as a bass player.  He had married and spoke of his wee girl.  He seemed happy and had matured a lot.

It was just a brief chat in the queue at a filling station, but as I drove away, I felt good.  Meeting Alan had cheered me up no-end.  I had lost so many friends around that time (quite a few to drugs), so I was elated that he was OK, that it worked out for him, that he was not-just-alive — but that he had married and had his own wee family. He at least made it through to the other side!




Hmmm, what can I say about Jaco that hasn’t already been said?

Here I’ll leave the bass-playing to Pastorius himself…

Love ya Jaco, R.I.P.

If you want to read my thoughts on Jaco’s murder, and how it changed my life — read my post on the death of Joe Zawinul and the death of Jaco Pastorius: 2007/09/11/my-personal-911/




This is so strange, but earlier this year, May or early June I think, we flagged a black cab on Clyde street.  I can’t remember where we were going or anything, but I do remember that the cabbie was all in black.  We got chatting — as y’do — it’s always the same in taxis, isn’t it? Anyway, the chap had noticed the guitar cases and said that he’d just been to a funeral.  I think he said it was his sister’s brother or something like that. He said that his deceased relative was a musician, but he didn’t think we’d have heard of him.

He said he was big in the ’states, but almost unknown back home here in Glasgow.  I said

“Try me”

Jimmy Dewar” he said, turning the cab past the Clutha Vaults.

“Oh yes, the singer and bassist with Robin Trower?”

“Eh? You’ve heard of him then?”

“Oh aye, he had a BRILLIANT voice, bit like Paul Rogers — you know ‘Free’?, dark chocolate or whisky and cigarettes.  Oh what a shame! I didn’t know he’d died.”

“Aye, that’s him”

“Jings, he couldn’t have been that old, what was it he died of?”

“Complications after surgery I think, and naw, he wasn’t that old, you’re right enough”

“Aw, man, the more I think about it, the more gutted I am; you’d have thought the papers or telly or somthing would have made more of a bit deal.  Jeez!”

“It was a right celebrity funeral though”

“Oh was it?”

“Oh aye, stars galore!  And that wee tramp Lulu was there as well”

“Eh? Lulu? A tramp? You have to be kiddin’!”

“Whit? Where have you been hidin’ ?  You must be the only person in Glasgow who’s not shagged her, or at least the only person in Glasgow that’s not heard about it.  She’s well known for being like that.”

“Bloody hell, what a life-changing taxi ride this is” I said as he pulled up to a halt.

I handed over the money shown on the meter plus the usual pound on top of the “keep the change” tip, and he drove off.

Who knew?  Lulu was “a raver”, and Jimmy Dewar had died.  I mentioned this to some folks, and yes, it seemed that everyone in the town knew what Lulu was like — although not many even knew who Jimmy Dewar was. But he old timers remembered Jimmy from the strange “Burns Howff” era of Glasgow musical history — Maggie Bell, Alex Harvey, Simple Minds, Stone the Crows, and Frankie Miller.

I guess it was a scene of sorts. I was too young for that scene, and I am not really into that kind of music, but I do feel that it is a shame that we don’t recognise these people better.

I DID like Robin Trower, and I really did like Jimmy’s vocals and bass lines… goodness it got me through school, and I definitely would have bought a ticket had they gigged (so many old timers are still gigging), so it is a personal loss of sorts.

For a long time I played in a trio — and so I have always been attentive to successful trios, and The Police, Cream, Hendrix and Trower are all up there as shining examples to follow.

One chap in a bar we played in over in Woodlands tonight (during one of our Sunday sessions with Chic Henderson) said that he was pretty sure Jimmy Dewar started off his career as Lulu’s bass player.  I was relieved to hear this; it meant that it was possible that the link between Lulu and the great Jimmy Dewar could be JUST musical/ professional!