bass player in the trenches"
by Sebastián Caffini
Ed Friedland is without a doubt one of the most
conspicuous and prolific characters in the bass universe. A professional
musician, he played both electric and upright bass as a sideman with several
artists in diverse genres, besides fronting several bands of his own. He's also
one of the most notorious contributors to Bass Player magazine, where both his
interviews and "in the trenches" educational articles displayed his
entertaining, down-to-earth writing style and his nonetheless valuable teaching
skills, and gained him instant recognition and respect from the readers.
His role as a bass educator doesn't stop there, though,
as Ed continues to teach privately and has published several books for bassists
that were enthusiastically received by both the press and the public.
Ed’s all over the web, too. You can locate him either at his own site (www.edfriedland.com),
his band’s (www.lazy-ed.com), or
posting his instantly recognizable, thoughtful and wise comments in the Internet
bass forum ‘The Bottom Line’. Also, he’s recently been named moderator of
a new bass forum called “The Bass Station” at www.musicplayer.com.
Ed lives in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., a long way from where I am in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. He graciously agreed to do this interview via e-mail with Global
Bass Magazine. We certainly expect Ed to be the first of a hopefully
growing list of bass personalities we interview this way.
How long have you
been teaching? And how much do you feel you’ve refined your teaching approach
I've been teaching since 1979, and over the years I've learned a lot, probably
more than any of my students! Like most people I started out teaching by just
doing it, no clue, no plan. Eventually I put together some materials of my own
to use for teaching which started me thinking about how and what I want to teach
people. Besides teaching at Berklee College of Music, getting a Masters
Degree in Education really helped me learn how to teach. It's really all about problem solving, the problem is "what does this student need to
learn, and how I teach them in a way they will understand?"
To date, you have
published several books for bassists. How would you describe the concepts and
contents of each of them?
“Building Walking Bass Lines” is
a beginner to intermediate method for walking bass. The goal is to help you
learn how to construct your own lines, not just give you written examples like
some books. The CD gives you a chance to practice your lines with good musicians
at reasonable tempos.
Walking Bass Lines” is the intermediate to advanced walking method. It
shows you how to play more involved lines with rhythmic embellishments, and more
involved note choices. I talk about playing more "outside" sounding
lines and modal approaches as well. Ultimately, once you understand the overview
of a tune, you can play any note, anywhere you want.
is a global perspective on jazz playing. It's not just about walking, it shows
you things like common intros, endings, playing in 3/4, ballads, Latin,
Latin/swing, trading 4's and more. The play along tracks are full arrangements
of jazz tunes.
Improvisation” is a soloing method. It gives you much of the raw
information you need to understand jazz harmony, and shows you several effective
strategies to put the information into use.
Bass” is a chronological look at bass lines from Jamaican popular music
from the early 1960's up to today. The lines are written out in tab as well as
notation, and the CD play along is a blast.
Bassist's Toolkit” is due out this January. It's a compilation of many
articles I've written for Bass Player Magazine. Putting them into book form
allowed me to add lots of new material and include a CD with play along tracks
and an ear training workout. It talks about developing the skills that working
professionals need to have like good ears, good time, playing different styles
of music, learning to fake tunes, different playing techniques and more.
Are there any plans
to publish more books in the near future?
I have a few ideas, I'd like to write a beginner bass method similar to the
material I use at home for my new students, I think could be valuable. I'd also
like to write a slap method, but then there are already so many out there, I
think it might be hard to get a publisher interested in another one. Right now,
I'm in between books. I haven't started to seriously pursue a publisher for any new ideas yet.
One of your most
visible sides is your work at Bass Player magazine. Did you ever consider
pursuing a career in music journalism? Do you write for other publications as
Well, I guess I HAVE a career in music journalism! But I never considered myself
a journalist until just recently. I always considered myself more of an educator
that could write. BP has broadened my horizons by letting me do interviews and
record reviews. It's been a learning experience for me. It's easier to write
about things I know than to write about people that I may NOT know. Journalism
is really the art of digging into a subject and uncovering things that might not
appear to the casual glance. I can't say I was trained in that, but I'm learning
how to ask the right questions. I'm learning some of that right now by answering
your questions! I have been interviewed a few times in my life, (and been
terribly mis-quoted and mis-represented) so I think that makes me more sensitive to the position the person I'm interviewing.
Nobody wants to look like a jerk in an interview, and yet writers can often do
that to someone by accident or intentionally. I do my best to represent the
people I interview as faithfully as possible, I'm not looking for hidden dirt on people. I've mainly written for Bass Player, I did
write one story awhile back for Guitar Player, and I've written a few pieces for
the local paper here in Tucson, AZ.
As a journalist, you
interviewed several bass players. Who among them impressed you the most as
musicians and as human beings?
It was a huge honor to interview Al McKibbon, he is a legend of the bass and the
sweetest guy in the world. He played with Miles on "The Birth Of The
Cool", with Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Monk, everyone! I got to hang out with
him and play his amazing 350 year old bass. He was given a lifetime achievement
award at Bass Day 1999. I also interviewed Percy Heath, another giant of the
bass. He played with Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Modern Jazz Quartet, another guy that played with all the ‘greats’. He still plays terrific and is an
incredibly intelligent and thoughtful man.
He really impressed upon me the struggle the early
be-boppers went through to define modern jazz. We take it all for granted now,
everyone listens to bebop, but back then it was revolutionary music. Percy got a
lifetime achievement award at Bass Day 2000. It was a thrill to interview Stu Cook from Creedence Clearwater Revival, they
were one of my favorite bands when I was 10 years old. I've also had the chance
to interview some old friends of mine that have come up in the music scene, Mike
Rivard from Orchestra Morphine is an old buddy, Bruno Raberg and I used to sub
our gigs out to each other in Boston, it's nice to be able to give people the
exposure they deserve.
anecdotes about the players you interviewed?
I met Stu Cook online. I saw a post on The Bottom Line (an online bass forum)
signed Stu Cook. I immediately sent him an email "are you ‘THE’ Stu
Cook?" It was him, and we started talking. I approached BP about doing a
story on him and they went for it. People had been telling me about Marco
Mendoza for years. I finally went to see him play in LA and was totally amazed.
Marco was so unique, and grooved so hard it really impressed me. On top of that
he's a totally genuine person, not a fake "LA nice guy", a real
sincere human being. Ray Riendeau was someone I met in Phoenix, AZ. He has these
amazing killer funk chops, yet he's touring now with Rob Halford doing heavy
metal. Anyway, Ray was teaching at The Bass Place in Tempe, AZ and became
friends. I interviewed him, then he asked me to play on his first CD "All
I understand you
play electric and upright. Which one came first? And how did you get started on
the other one?
I started on the upright bass, I've been playing it for 28 years now! When I was
18, I went to Berklee and figured I better learn electric bass too if I was
going to be a professional bassist. I think it was easier to go from upright to
electric bass, it's much less physical and the frets make it a little easier.
Do you get more
calls for electric or acoustic gigs?
It varies, this week, I'm playing a lot of upright, 4 nights in a row, but
before that, it was several weeks of electric bass. I sometimes go quite a while
without playing upright, then suddenly it's in demand and I have to get back in
shape. Luckily, I always seem to be able to play it when I'm on the gig.
Sometimes I think I play better when I haven't touched it for weeks, I feel
fresh and I'm excited to play it again.
Have you done many
gigs where you had to play both instruments?
Sure, doubling gigs come up frequently. There are fewer players that can play
both instruments well, so I tend to get a lot of calls for those gigs. It's a
challenge managing two instruments on a gig, sometimes the amplification set up
has to be different for each bass, or else you have to compromise on the sound
for one of them. Sometimes the logistics of switching basses can be tricky. I did a theatre gig where I had 15 seconds to switch instruments in a
dark, crowded orchestra pit. It had to be done quietly, and I had to hit my
entrance on time with a spotlight cue. I practiced making the change in the pit
with a stop watch until I could get it every time.
What are your
currents gigs? Do you get more calls to do studio dates or live dates?
I do more live dates than studio these days, Tucson, AZ is not a hotbed of
recording activity, but there is some. I freelance with a few bands, one is a
"casual" band - meaning we play private parties doing everything
from jazz standards to Mariah Carey to Prince. It's fun playing different styles
on one gig, and the money is good. I do lots of jazz gigs backing up artists
that come through town. Often there's no rehearsal, they expect you to show up
on the gig and know every song ever written, and be able to read anything they
put in front of you. I also have a few bands of my own that work part time, a
fusion-smooth jazz thing, and a classic New Orleans R&B band called
"Lazy Ed & The Strat-O-Loungers", it's blast to play simple, fat
bass and sing at the same time. Our website is www.lazy-ed.com.
I do the occasional jingle session, or show gig, I even did a concert with the
Tucson Symphony Orchestra doing a swing era tribute. They had a jazz rhythm
section plus the orchestra.
Which are some of
the gigs you have the fondest memories of, and why?
Some that stand out in my mind are playing The Paradiso in Amsterdam in 1985
with Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. It was the band's first tour to Europe
and we were very well received. We played a high energy show to 3000 people and
had to come back for 5 encores! Another one was playing the New Orleans Jazz and
Heritage Festival in 1991 with Johnny Adams. I've always been a fan of New
Orleans music, and getting to play there with one of the greatest singers from New Orleans was a real treat. I did a jazz gig in New York
a few years back playing piccolo bass with a great rhythm section, they really
pushed me to a higher level of playing. My favorite experience is when you play
a jazz gig with great musicians and everything connects. You lose your sense of
where you are and you enter what I call "the trance". I love when that
happens, you really feel the music come through you as if you're channeling it from another dimension.
Do you play gigs
outside the U.S.?
I have, but not recently. I've toured England, Belgium, Holland, Italy and
Japan. I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1992, but since then I've been staying in
the States. It's not necessarily by choice, but no offers have come in that I
wanted to do. I'd like to do some more traveling, but at this point, it would
take an amazing musical opportunity or else a lot of money to get me on the
Tell us about your
Well, I have a few basses, my 5 strings are all Carvins. I love them, they feel
great, they sound great. They are very versatile, they can do a lot of things
well, that's important to me. I have 2 BB75's, one is Koa, the other is Swamp
Ash. I have a hybrid BB/LB75 fretless on order that I'm looking forward to
getting, that one will be Swamp Ash too. I think it's the best wood choice for a
bass. I have an LB75 that I have tuned up as a piccolo bass. My 4 strings are a
Fender 1975 Jazz bass, it's the best funk axe in the world, and it sounds great
for everything. I have a 1973 Fender Precision that can also cover a lot of
different sounds, I have a Fender Mexican Jazz fretless that works pretty good, you have to really work it to get the sound,
but it does have the Jaco vibe.
I also use an Egmond bass, it's a cheap Dutch
instrument from the 60's that sounds amazing. It's very warm and fat sounding
and works for a lot of gigs. I have an equipment page on my website - www.edfriedland.com, there are short Quicktime
samples of me playing each of my electric basses you can hear. My upright is a
50 year old Juzek carved axe. It's a very stable instrument, nothing fancy, but
it plays well and doesn't crack. I use a Fishman BP100 pickup with a Crown
Microphone through a Fishman Pocket Blender. For upright and small electric
gigs, I use a Clarus amp by Acoustic Image. It's small, powerful and very
accurately reproduces the sound of my bass. I run it through a 15" Carvin
speaker built into a custom made cabinet. For electric bass gigs, I use a TC Electronics 1144 Bass Preamp and drive the power amp from a Trace Elliot 350 SMX
head going into one or two Eden 210 XLT cabinets. It's a nice modular setup, I
rarely need more than one cabinet for local gigs. The TC preamp is great, very
transparent and flexible.
What's the typical
equipment you take to gigs?
That depends totally on the gig. If it's a straight ahead jazz gig, I bring the
upright, the Clarus and my custom 15" cab. For blues and R&B gigs, I
take the P-bass or Jazz bass and the TC/Trace/Eden rig. If I'm playing electric
jazz or a "variety" gig I'll bring the Carvin Swamp Ash BB75 and which
ever amp suits the room. I don't like to bring out more gear than I need, I'm
too old to lug around those heavy cabinets unless I have to! The fretless comes
out for fusion gigs or if I want to do a straight ahead jazz gig on electric
bass. I have my Carvin Koa BB75 tuned with a high C string, so sometimes I use
that for guitar trio gigs, this way I can play bass lines and chords behind the
guitar player. I also use the Zoom 506 II for effects.
To close, our
classic last question: what's your advice for young bassists who are just
beginning on the instrument?
The most important thing is to become a competent player. You don't have to be
brilliant, just be functional. If you can do that, you can always do a good job.
We always read about the "super heroes" of bass and want to be just
like them, but remember that they all started out as mere "mortals".
They had to learn how to keep time, to know their fingerboard, to learn scales
and arpeggios, to play different styles of music. If you focus on getting your
basic skills together, eventually the greatness within you will come out
naturally. You can't be great until you're at least competent.
© 2001 44Hz.com
Sabastian Caffini lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He is a bass player and a lawyer for the government. Quite the combination! He
also is the webmaster and owner of an excellent website for bassists called 44Hz.com.
His site is full of interviews he has conducted as well as Spanish translations
of Global Bass interviews. He was also instrumental in becoming our first step
on the journey to becoming a truly Global magazine for bassists, making the
magazine available to many thousands of Spanish speaking bass players we could
not have otherwise reached.
He is also NOT MISSING ! If
you noticed a sign on the top of the page for the January issue asking you to
contact us if you happened to hear anything about him, it was because he went on
vacation for weeks and weeks and didn’t bother to tell us!!!!! We thought he
was either dead or abducted by aliens. It’s summer in Argentina and he’s
busy bragging about his great tan. Boy, when I get ahold of him!
this article in Spanish as translated by Sebastian Alejandro Caffini