Interview: Reggie Washington – Keep the Bottom!

Velimir Grabušić

Reggie Washington, poznati svjetski basista, stigao je jučer u Hrvatsku kako bi sudjelovao na ovogodišnjem Bassmasteru2012 u sklopu 2. Zagreb Guitar Showa.

Kako je kroz svoju glazbenu karijeru radio sa mnogim bubnjarskim velikanima prihvatio je poziv i, uz Dražena Šolca, Damira Josipovića i Gorana Delača, sudjelovao i u radu žirija Dvoboja bubnjara (24.10.).

Reggiev dolazak na Bassmaster 2012 omogućio je MarkBass.

Uoči njegovog workshopa večeras u VIP Clubu (25.10. od 19:30h, ulaz slobodan) i svirke sa Goranom Delačem i njegovim bendom nakon finala Bassmastera2012, Reggie nam je ispričao nešto o sebi, svojoj opremi i svirci.

When did you get your first bass?

My Mom got my first bass in 1980. It was a Kramer 5001 fretless bass. It had the aluminum neck & was totally out-of-balance with itself (headstock HEAVY) ! Soon after; the Fender jazz (w/modifications) was the big thing on the recording scene & was the sound everybody was hearing; so my father & my Uncle gave me $550 to buy a bass ! I purchased a ’77 Natural wood Fender jazz at a Woodwind shop on 46th St in New York City. That was in ’82.

How did you start playing, and where did you study bass, or self-taught?

My very first instrument was the conga when I was about 4 years old. I played in a percussion duo w/my brother drummer/jazz historian Kenny Washington. I also had access to many instruments so I tried to play all of them! Sax, french horn, baritone horn, flute, violin & viola. I took up the cello and fell in love! I got switched by conductor Anthony Diaz to acoustic bass in the orchestra when I was 14 yrs. old to help out a weak bass section and never went back to the cello section.

Just before that fateful day ; Kenny was bringing a young Marcus Miller to our house to learn about jazz on the weekends! I would sit around and listen to the records being played & mess around on Marcus’ Jazz bass. I received numerous scholarships to study privately with noted orchestral, jazz & afro-cuban bassists as a teenager.

Who were your early musical influences, and who influenced you most?

I had a few influences. First & foremost it’s been my father (Charles) & my brother Kenny. EVERY DAY music was being played in my house!!

Jazz, classical, gospel, R&B, latin, samba, etc. In the 60’s there was a lot of music happening !

We had a HUGE record collection. We also had great musicians coming to our house. My brother was a gifted young drummer at the time & guys like Jimmy Owens, Reggie Workman, Dizzy Gillespie, Rudy Collins & Jimmy Knepper were coming to our house to sit, talk music & listen to records ! It was an experience that helped make me who/what I am today ! My brother & I were nurtured by the older musicians at the time. They saw something in us I guess & they instilled in us the desire to pass the knowledge on to the next generation of young players. I want to give back what was given to me.

From the beginning of my professional career; I’ve been influenced by everyone I’ve played with ! For me; that’s how you grow. Folks you play with don’t have to be good for you to learn from them… but it helps if they are good!

What is the role of education in music?

Education is super important.

It just depends on who’s the “giver” of the information.

The way I was educated is almost non-existent now. Those nurturing places (jam sessions, weekly workshops, older musicians, etc.) are now gone or are so expensive a lot of talented kids just can’t afford it. Gigs are so scarce that older established musicians don’t want to give info to the younger cats because some of them don’t seem to care about the heritage/history of the music & are only thinking about making some dollars!

Can you tell us a bit about how you practice and compose?

My practice methods have changed over the years due to a hand injury & surgery I had in 2006. I never really practiced when I was younger. Now with 2 titanium plates & 10 screws in my left hand; I try to practice everyday & warm up before every concert. When I practice I’m composing too. Ideas are always flying around in my head! I work these new things out on my bass & if it becomes a cool bassline or melody I record it. I don’t practice patterns & things like that because I don’t to be playing patterns on the gig! I practice for what may happen on the stage.

Your current bass and rig?

I play a Phifer Designs ‘‘Woody’’ Signature Series 4-string bass. My relationship with luthier Woody Phifer started 30 years ago. I think it’s important if you plan to do this thing we call Music; you might as well make the journey comfortable. That starts with your instrument. He took the time to explain what it was all about ! Plus I was eager to listen. I explained what I was hearing in my head & he’d find that sound in the bass that I had (’77 natural Fender Jazz bass) ! He made me a Woody bass when I couldn’t modify my Jazz anymore. He’s the only guy I go to. I know what I’m getting from him every time I go to him; superior craftsmanship & a little extra ! He knows what I want to sound like & runs with it. That’s what 30 years of loyalty will get you.

My acoustic bass is an old Tyrolean flatback bass. I like just a DPA or AMT clip-on mic. I use a David Gage pick-up & a BOSS DI-1 direct box if things get loud. My strings are old (Thomastik); but they sound good.

For my amps; I’m a Markbass amps endorser. I use a Little Mark Tube 800 with a New York 804 cabinet when I’m doubling on acoustic & electric and a MoMark 800-SJ (Sweet Jesus) amp with two 104HR cabinets or one 106HR cabinet for total electric gigs, R. Cocco Stainless steel strings (.045-.105), Essential Sound Products MusicCord-PRO power cords (killer!), George L’s & Prolink/Monster Cables. As far as outboard gear; I have a Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron, an old BOSS Octaver, some very cool Markbass pedals (Stereo Chorus/Flanger & Bass Synthesizer) and a Big Muff. I love the pure sound of my bass so much that I only use them in the studio. All protected by Gruv Gear bags & iGig cases.

R. Cocco Strings?

It was always a great fit for me, my bass & the music I was doing with Steve Coleman & 5 Elements and Branford Marsalis’ Buckshot LeFonque when I was with Richard Sr. back in 1995. Nothing much has changed. I still desire top quality, craftsmanship, superior tone & durability. R. Cocco strings fits the bill for me… again !

What can you tell us about your new CD “Freedom”?

In today’s music business it’s getting more & more difficult to express yourself and be true to yourself and your art. This is where the title came in. It was my “FREEDOM” to play with whom I want, play the music I want to play & be happy doing it as well as creating a strong CD!

It’s a great feeling to have the FREEDOM to sell & distribute our CD as we want. We need to get it in the hands of people to hold & see! We want to have the listener read the liner notes & listen to the ENTIRE CD and not just the tunes they think are good. My CD tells a musical story.

What is the biggest thing to recommend any bass player at any level?

Be true to SELF ! Have fun with what you’re doing & always respect the music. After all that; pick up a copy of my CD entitled ”FREEDOM” at & love it ! Keep the Bottom!

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