Global Bass Online December 2001
by Brent-Anthony Johnson
Adam Nitti is one of the greatest bassists of this generation! Currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, the 30-year-old bassist maintains a full roster of daily events that range from his duties as a solo recording artist and composer, to artistic director at the Atlanta Institute of Music. Adam is also a monthly columnist for Bass Player Magazine; maintains an online lesson forum, and he¹s also a traveling clinician for SWR amps and D'Addario strings. Adam's third CD, "Evidence", was just released in November, and it features guest performances from such heavyweights as Dave Weckl (Dave Weckl Band) and Shane Theriot (Neville Brothers). You can keep up with him at his official website, adamnitti.com.
long been associated with the Curbow 6-string bass guitar. But, Lately, I’ve seen you with a gorgeous, green Mike Lull
5 (see photo above), and also with a Music Man 5.
I found that really interesting in some strange way.
Tell me about that. Also, do
you find that by switching from 4-to-5-to-6-string basses you are able to get
closer to what a particular song calls for?
When I was touring with Angie Aparo, I was using both of those basses, in
addition to my Curbow Retro II 5 string for virtually all of our shows. They
were chosen for the tour based on what we used in the studio during the
recording of 'The American'. On that record, I believe I used 5 different
basses, and I ended up choosing these instruments based on the tones we were
trying to match up from the record.
Please describe your “sweep arpeggio” technique, and how
AN: The sweeping technique I use
is basically a modified version of what you'd see a guitarist use. It is
actually a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs played across the strings.
When I ascend, I use my thumb as a guitar pick; when I descend, I use my index
finger in the same way. I started doing this many years ago when I was playing
in one of my first bands. I think I was 18 at the time. Our favorite thing to do
was to cover some of the instrumental 'shred' bands of that time, like Racer X,
Greg Howe, and Tony McAlpine. Our guitar player had this uncanny ability to
learn even the most ridiculously fast guitar solos and other sections
note-for-note. He was the cat that really inspired me to start doing stuff like
that. In recent years, some have associated this technique with my personal
style, which is kind of cool. I'm still working on taking it to the next level,
both technically and musically.
you used that technique in any Angie Aparo tune?
Or, is there a tighter reign on the musical happenings in that context?
Well, there really isn't any place for that kind of stuff in Angie's
music. The role of the bass is very conservative in his songs, because that is
what fits best in order to support his melodies. The sweep thing is most
effective in contexts that are most appropriate for it... It would definitely be
considered more of a 'flash' technique. I reserve it for the places where I am
able to be more of a 'stylist' on the bass, such as on my solo records or in
other musicians' enviroments in which the atmosphere is a little more
improvisational or wide-open.
As we’re all shaped by our current experiences…
Does the future hold more sideman work for Adam Nitti?
You know, if you would have asked me this 6 months ago, I probably would
have given you a completely different answer. I am definitely going through a
transitional period at this time. There was a point at which I aspired to build
my name more through the vehicle of other artist's gigs. The sideman role
definitely has its appeal in the higher profile situations; usually the money is
good, the travel conditions are good, and you get to play with other great
players. However, it seems the longer I do this, the closer I become with my own
craft, and I feel the need more and more to devote my time to sharing my own
music and experiences with the world around me. At
this point, that is what feels most honest to me. Also,
the really good sideman gigs are challenging to acquire. As with so many
elements in the music industry, politics play a key role. If you decide to
pursue the sideman gigs, you really do have to make it a priority. It takes a
time and effort to keep your name on the tongues of those
you are trying work for. Compromises are a part of life, and you have to decide
what's most important to you. Every player finds fulfillment in different types
of gigs. I am still interested in doing sideman gigs, but at this time, I am not
actively making those my priority. We'll see what the future holds, though...
have always written from keyboard (versus the bass). Have you ever written from the bass guitar?
Actually, my latest record, 'Evidence' has several songs on it that did
indeed originate from grooves created on the bass. I don't really have a set
method of composing. Sometimes a song will start with a groove or riff. Other
times, I may hear the harmony first. Other times, it is the melody that drives
the compositional process. I've never really been one to use a formula for
composing. I just try to make sure that each song is allowed to evolve on it’s
own. I don't try to force particular sections or changes. I really try to listen
from the outside as a listener, which isn't always easy to do.
have developed a fantastic relationship with Victor Wooten.
How did that come about? Also,
please tell us more about the Bass/Nature camp!
I believe I initially met Victor after a Flecktones show. I was
immediately impressed by his humility and willingness to share with his fans.
Through the years I followed his work both inside and outside of the Flecktones.
I would see him at NAMM shows and always make an effort to speak with him. Over
time, we became better friends and through our exchanges he became more familiar
with my playing and my music. He has always been supportive and encouraging.
There have even been a couple of times that he has called me to the stage to
perform with him at his own performances, and I have always been so grateful for
We just had Victor's 2nd annual Bass/Nature camp take
place outside of Nashville earlier this year. These camps are truly an amazing
experience. They are 5 days of eating, sleeping, drinking, and walking with
music and nature in an environment that is free from typical worldly
distractions. This is more than a music and nature event; it's a spiritual
experience! The main bass instructors so far have been myself, Victor, Regi
Wooten and Steve Bailey, but there are always some surprise guests, as well.
Last year we had Chuck Rainey, for example, and this year we had Bela Fleck and
Edgar Meyer, to name a few.
always appreciated the fact that you’ve pursued relationships with other
bassists (John Patitucci and Dominique di Piazza, particularly).
Is this an example of, once again, "It's all about being a
Well, I've always wished for opportunities to cultivate friendships with
people that I really admire or have been influenced by. I've been lucky enough
to have had the chance to get to know few of my bass idols pretty well. But I
must emphasize that I had to go through a period of maturity before I was even
allowed the opportunity. When I was younger, I had more selfish reasons for
wanting to rub elbows with those who had already 'made it.' I figured that if I
could find a way to enter the circle of players who had already arrived, then my
own music career would be furthered by it.
I didn't care as much about those relationships then as I
did my own personal gain, and this is where I had a lot of growing up to do. The
truth is, that sort of insincerity that shrouds our alterior motives is usually
quite transparent, and most people see it coming. I don't care any more about
that stuff. Fame like that of Victor Wooten's or John Patitucci's my never come
my way, but it isn't about that anymore for me. Now I just want the opportunity
to share my talents with others and hopefully make some sort of positive
influence in their lives. Everything else just seems to fall in place on its
also one of those bassists who doesn’t take a lot of time to describe your
overall musical approach to life (which, is a great and much appreciated thing)!
Let’s talk about the vast differences between playing in a context like
Angie Aparo’s versus working in the bass-led, instrumental music field, from
the standpoint of what you’d like to tell other bassists about this matter!
They are two different contexts, and they each require something
completely different from the player. As I mentioned earlier, the sideman gig
requires a player to take on a more supportive role. In most cases, it's not the
bass that is going to be featured. You are there to play your parts and play
them well. But you are also in the world of public relations, and that can make
you or break you. Reputation is very important if you want to get called back.
The exact same thing applies to session work and recording projects. People
aren't just going to hire you because you can play well. That is already taken
for granted. People will also hire you because you bring a positive energy to a
project or gig, and are likeable and easy to get along with. If you don't care
about working or making a living consistently in music, then you can afford to
ignore these things. But how many of us fall into that category? Regardless of
what you may be trying to accomplish in the music industry, your attitude and
public relations skills are going to be more important than your playing skills,
when it comes to business. All of
these things still apply in the world of 'solo bass' recordings and
performances, but strictly on a musical level you obviously
have more freedom. However, you are laying it all out
everyone to hear, and because of this, it is critical that you give utmost
attention to quality and put your best foot forward. When you release a solo
bass record or instrumental record, there aren't any vocals to 'hide behind'!
Essentially, you are defining your style with your music, and listeners will
cast a judgment on your playing based on their first impression.
you going to tour behind the new release? What
was different about your composition approach to this disc, versus your earlier
AN: I am planning on touring in support of the 'Evidence' record starting in the Spring of 2002. However, right now my focus is on media coverage in order to generate a bit of a buzz for the record before I go out. I also have some exciting things planned for next year that will incorporate sponsorship from companies I have been working with for some time now, namely SWR, D'Addario, and the Atlanta Institute of Music.
Compositionally, this new album is a bit more
experimental. When I say that, I mean that I used some components in my writing
that I hadn't used before on my previous albums. Some people have told me that
'Evidence' has a more 'futuristic' sound to it. It is a less complicated record
than my last album, 'Balance,' for the most part with respect to harmony and
changes. I also played a little more slap bass on this record and basically
debuted a new technique I've been working on for the last few years. It is
basically a slap/flamenco hybrid using the right hand which sounds like a very
aggressive tremelo picking style for the bass. I basically worked the technique
up over time until it was natural, and then incorporated it into my bass line
composition for several of the tunes on the record.
gotta ask… What did you want to be
when you were a child, and when did the realization that you are a musician
AN: I seem to remember my
earliest career choice being a scientist. I was pretty fascinated with
technology when I was little. My parents bought me a chemistry set and an
electronics set, and I just went to town. I started taking piano lessons when I
was around 8, and immediately fell in love with music. After that, nothing else
I did was as fun. The rest is history.
discs are you listening to these days?
AN: To be completely honest with
you, I haven't been doing much listening at all lately at home. Most of my time
has been spent on the phone! I have recently forced myself to start listening to
the radio again while I'm in the car. I'm trying to really soak up as much as I
can because there are a handful of projects I will be producing next year that
are more in the pop genre. When I do get a moment to sit down and really focus
on listening, lately I'm enjoying recordings
mostly with upright players. I'm starting to get that itch again to learn
you ever thought about what a person is going to hear when listening to your
playing for the first time, and what they might be thinking?
AN: It haunts me constantly!!!
<grin> Seriously, though, I do think about it a lot. I generally hope that
the listener will come away from a recording of mine having heard something they
hadn't heard before. More importantly, though, I am hoping that at least a small
shred of what I was feeling or experiencing during that performance makes its
way into the heart of the listener. Music only has meaning to me as a form of
expression that is shared. Most of the music on 'Evidence' was written when I
was going through a challenging time, emotionally. I have a hunch that many of
those feelings are conveyed through different parts of the recording. The
ultimate form of success is when you can communicate things like this to the
listener without ever having met or spoken to them before.
Will there ever be an Adam Nitti solo bass disc?
Hmmmm. That's a good question. I won't rule out the possibility, but I
have a few other goals I need to achieve first. The first order of business when
I have the next available large block of time will be to complete my first
instructional video. We'll see what happens after that!
you think you’ll ever take the volumes of written bass lessons and compile a
book from them?
AN: That is the SECOND order of
really like the graphics package you use for your lesson layout. Which graphic package do you use? I
realize I’ve been meaning to do that for quite sometime! Along
the same lines… What advice can you give to an aspiring bassist who would like
to begin writing lessons, or lesson books?
Thanks a lot. I don't use anything elaborate. For the notation, I use
Cakewalk Overture on the Mac. For the text and graphics, I just use AppleWorks.
When I write my articles for bass player, I just provide them with the text in
an RTF file, and for the graphics and notation forward them. jpgs.
Writing a good bass lesson is kind of like writing a good
musical composition. You have to make sure it flows and is cohesive. Try to keep
the language simple, and try not to use too many words when describing things
that are already complicated or challenging in nature. I also think it is very
important to create an outline for your article before you write it. It is much
easier to organize your thoughts that way, and for me, it seems to save time in
the end. I would also add that you should make an effort to hold the attention
of the reader, just as if you were trying to hold the attention of a listener
while performing. Often this can be achieved by the use of examples and/or the
relating of your own experiences with the subject matter you are writing about.
talk about the aspects of diet, balance, focus, planning, vision, and basic
aesthetic as it pertains to being a musician.
Which aspects of your success aren’t truly musical by nature?
For instance, you were one of the first bassists to launch a website –
an astute move on your part!
I've always believed that you have to be well-rounded in order to attain
success. You have to also maintain a measure of balance in your life to prevent
burnout. When I was younger, music was much more of an all-consuming activity
and pursuit for me. Ironically enough, now that I am making a living through
music exclusively, I depend much more on non-musical things to keep me motivated
and sane. I think all of us who write or play music for a living share at least
one thing in common: Each of us is emotionally connected to our music, and we
seek some degree of fulfillment through it. This fulfillment brings about peace
and happiness. But the older you get and the longer you become involved in the
actual business of making music, the more you realize the importance and value
of non-musical things, such as relationships, good health, financial security,
and emotional and spiritual well-being. We learn that the music business, in
addition to providing us musical fulfillment, also at times can bring about
frustration or hardship due to the nature of its politics. Broken promises,
broken dreams, and depression all too often become by-products of what we are so
emotionally invested in. Because of this you HAVE to have a balance in your life
that offers other areas of fulfillment. What good is a music career if it strips
you of the joy that attracted you to music in the first place?
for everything, Adam! I am
convinced that you will inherit the success you deserve, and that you’re
capable of handling with much grace! Check out Adam’s website at: http://www.adamnitti.com/
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