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Jimmy Haslip


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By Brent-Anthony Johnson

Above is an excellent YouTube Documentary about Jimmy
As a member of the Yellowjackets since 1979 Jimmy Haslip has been at the forefront of jazz fusion bass playing.  His successful solo releases Arc (1993), and Y2k’s Red Heat then made him a top-list household name and the voice of Latin infused jazz fusion bass guitar.  But, beyond his “upside-down, lefty” playing approach, Jimmy is a player who’s ease of play also speaks clearly to his deep musical (and family) roots.  Greatly influenced by his late father, a singer and guitarist, and by the Beatle’s Paul McCartney, Jimmy has propelled the groove for countless players on the music scene from almost every genre imaginable. These days everyone is wondering how to get Youtube views and some people even buy Youtube views  

Jimmy’s latest offering, Jing Chi  teams him with the incredible drummer, Vinnie Coliuta, and with his former bandleader, Robben Ford.  Though he’s known for being a more than able session musician with the likes of vocalist Marilyn Scott – Who’s 2001 release Walking With Strangers is a perfect example of taste and strength in the bass chair – Jing Chi marks a particular departure into blues based jamming!  I was awe-struck as I fired up the disc and listened to the hardest recorded tone I’ve ever witnessed from Robben Ford.  Both Robben and Vinnie are two of my absolute favorite musicians, and teaming them with the decidedly “bad ass” tone of Mr. Haslip left me shaking my head in the thick groove the trio lays down.  This is definitely one of those “wouldn’t it be great if (name 3 musicians) got together for a project?” outings!  

Robben Ford, Jimmy Haslip, Vinnie Colaiuta

I couldn’t wait to talk with Jimmy about his tone, his ears, and what’s happening with “the jackets”!  Here’s what we talked about…


BAJ:  Man!  I’m in heaven…  I get to talk with you!  I’m honored, and thanks for going to the mat to help me get this written.  I really appreciate it.  Let’s get started…

Your tone is really happening on Jing Chi!  It’s still you… But, it truly different than the tone I have come to expect from you.  There’s not a hint of the ‘upright’ sound you’ve used in the past.  This tone is “brutal” for lack of better explanation.  I’m thrilled – not that I don’t love your usual tone.  Is it just time for a change?  What’s happening?    Also, you’re pictured with the Roscoe 6 fretted.  Did you use the MTD’s on this disc?

Jimmy:  Yes… Actually, I used an MTD and an old Tobias on most of the tracks.  They were the work-horses on the Jing Chi project.  The Roscoe is used on the one and only bass solo on the tune Tengoku.  I also played a bit of synth bass on a couple of tunes.

On this recording, I wanted to have a serious deep rock tone to my bass and I felt that my sound had to have a serious edge to it.  I really didn’t do much to change my overall sound and I believe it more to do with the openness of the compositions, the jam factor and the don’t take any prisoners attitude in recording the music. We wanted a raw sound for the basic trio and I think that’s what we accomplished musically and tonally with the trio. Then, I added more colors to surround this raw center and sparking arcs from Robben, Vinnie and myself, with samples, synths, organ, tabla, and a more Science fiction like quality to landscape and frame the band.

BAJ:  Along with Tobias, MTD, and Roscoe, you’re also a long-time SWR endorsing artist.  Are you still with them, or has that also changed?

Jimmy:  I am still an SWR endorsee and love working with those guys. I used a goliath jr. cabinet with an SM400 amplifier on this project as well.  We had a direct track with a Radial JDL direct box and the SWR rig mic-ed with Sennheiser 421.

I have quite a bit of SWR gear for different situations: An SWR RedHead, a Baby Blue combo amp, and several configurations of SM400 and SM900 amplifiers with Goliath and Goliath Jr. speaker cabinets. 

BAJ:  Wow.  I still can’t get over your tone on Jing Chi. Wow!  I apologize for gushing…

Anyway, how did the trio of yourself, Robben, and Vinnie come together?  Also, you have a natural groove with Vinnie.  Have you two played together before now?







Jimmy:  Thanks for the kind words!  I know that having high quality instruments and gear really help to create  voice and sound that you can express yourself with . . .   I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to work with guys like Mike Tobias, Keith Roscoe, the folks over at Yamaha basses and the SWR folks!

As far as Vinnie, Robben and I hooking up...  It was fairly easy and I have to thank Mike Varney; CEO of Shrapnel Records for planting the seed!  He contacted me about putting a project together and prompted me to put a trio together.  I had been playing a bit with Robben Ford - subbing for Jimmy Earl and I had been also doing some session work in Los Angeles with Vinnie Coliauta .  That triggered the idea to call these guys and see if they would like to make a trio recording with some enhancement in mind - like Steve Tavaglione on EWI, and Brian Auger on Organ. 

Mike Varney at Shrapnel flipped for the idea and once Robben and Vinnie said "Let's do it" off we went!  We got together at Vinnie's house for about 10 days and wrote the ten tunes which now appear on the Jing Chi recording!  I then called engineer ace, Rich Breen to record and mix the recording - which was important to me to have his sound on this project as well!!

We spent 3 days at BAY 7 studios in North Hollywood doing the tracks and I spent another couple of weeks organizing Steve's and Brian's overdubs. I also added some keyboards during the mixing process with my trusty D50 and JV2080 Roland keyboards and within a month or so we handed Jing Chi in to Mike Varney.  

We are psyched and we are looking forward to making Jing Chi 2. . .  But first we are planning some West Coast dates starting around October/November and playing on through December.  Your readers can check my website for gig details soon at

All three of us have played before with each other, but this was the first time we actually played together in one unit!  I love playing music with Robben and Vinnie and I totally enjoyed seeing this project through ‘til the end as a producer, as well as a bass player!

BAJ:  I know you’re swamped with “the jackets”, as usual.   The group’s latest offering Mint Jam is a live set at The Mint in Los Angeles, and it’s incredible!  I’ve seen the group many times, but this set seemed different.  There was a lot of magic in the air on those two nights.  Tell us about that!

Jimmy:  Well this was an important recording for us in many ways.  We did this recording without a recording company or management or anyone's  help really, other than our own means.  We financed ourselves and my partner of 22 years, Russell Ferrante, and I did all the production coordination as far as picking a site, booking the two nights at the Mint: a 1950's blues club in south Hollywood famous for many live recordings, including a wonderful Jimmy Witherspoon recording. 

We rented recording equipment, microphones, drums, and a beautiful piano from Yamaha!  Then, we got Rich Breen to record on D88's and pro-tools and hired a film crew with director and producer Brian Linse' in order to make a DVD post production project.  We are in the editing process as we speak!

The new music (8 out of 12 songs) were hand picked out of a new batch of material we were preparing,  actually for a studio recording that never came to pass.  We decided on these pieces about a month before the recording and made a point of playing these tunes as much as possible in the live situations prior to the recording dates in L.A.

We knew that there weren't many live recordings with predominantly new material released and felt that this would be ambitious, yet interesting  to our fans, as we hadn't had a new recording released since 1998’s Club

Nocturne on the Warner Bros. Label – which, thanks to the powers that be, is now out of print!  That’s a real shame, since it was a Grammy nominated recording and one that we were very proud of. . . That's life,  That's Big-Time Business!

We are happy with Mint Jam and it was also the debut recording with new found drummer, Marcus Baylor, who plays his ass off on this disc!  It is now owned by the Yellowjackets and we have signed a licensing deal for international only, with Heads Up Records/TelArc. We are the sole distributors, so far, in the USA and we also have a wonderful songbook that was authored by Russell Ferrante and includes lead sheets on all 12 tunes included on Mint Jam, all for sale by our own BUZZ CATALOG at our site:

BAJ:  What’s next for the Yellowjackets, your busy session roster, and the rest?

Jimmy:  Well there’s plenty of touring ahead of us...  We are promoting Mint Jam, and we are planning to do a new studio recording by the end of the year, maybe late Fall time period and prepare for a new release around March 2003.

Robben Ford, Russell Ferrante and Myself are planning and producing a reunion concert for the Original Yellowjackets Quartet with Ricky Lawson on drums, Robben on guitar, Russell on keyboards and myself on bass!  We are scheduled to perform on August 9th 2002 at  the Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles.  We will record a live CD and film it for a DVD post production project.

I am finishing production on a new bands recording called Shades here in L.A.  and working on pre-production for a young Brazilian guitarist named Sandro Albert.  I will be performing with Marilyn Scott on various dates throughout the year and helping to promote her latest release Walking with Strangers.

Then, I will begin work on my third solo CD project over the next couple of months, and I have been writing for this project over the last three months.  I just recorded four tunes for a Jimi Hendrix tribute CD - to be released by an Italian recording company, Comet Records,  that features two tunes with guitarist Jeff Richman and drummer Gary Novak and two other tunes with Robben Ford and Tom Brechtlein.

After that, I will be recording with Flora Purim and Airto for her new release, next month.  I am scheduled to rehearse and tour with Pop singer, Gino Vannelli and the

Metropole Orchestra in Holland and Italy this summer...   I will also tour in Europe with the Yellowjackets and Sandro Albert.

There’s more... But that will give your readers an idea of what I’m up too!  I just want to play, produce and record as much quality music as I can muster.  It’s what I  love to do…!

BAJ:  A moment ago, I commented on your natural affinity for Vinnie Coliuta’s playing.  You are also playing very well with Marcus Baylor.  Nice.  His approach is, obviously, very different from (long time Yellowjacket’s drummer) Will Kennedy.  But, together, you and Marcus sound like the Yellowjacket’s rhythm section.  As we’re talking about a different drummer… I think there’s something you’re doing.  How do you conceptualize your role in Yellowjackets?

Jimmy:  This is not an easy question as I have many roles with the band as a bass player, composer, arranger, and as producer… So, I have an interesting roll in the Yellowjackets, but it also transcends to other bands and sessions as it goes.  I have an expanded vision of what my role is in any situation and I have the Yellowjackets to thank for that!   I has been a laboratory of sorts for me to gain experience in all these facets of the music and has enabled me to diversify to the extreme levels that I have progressed today and I continue to approach my musical life in that fashion.

Be that as it may… I am the glue between the rhythmic engine/drummer of the band and the harmonic source of the band as in the piano/keyboards and saxophone in the ‘Jackets.  I get to lock with drums in the very foundation of the group and soar above the clouds with the saxophone and piano... So, I am challenged on every song to contribute in all of these areas!

Marcus, for example, has a lot of energy and plays very intricate and complex patterns… Yet, he commits them totally in the music from a very subtle approach all the way to a strong and deliberate approach. It requires a lot of concentration and it dynamically creates a wonderful canvas to create on!  This was also the same feeling I got when playing in the band with William “Will” Kennedy.  They ironically are both ambidextrous, and play some extremely unusual patterns!  This was all about education for me over the last 14 years.  I’ve learned so much about listening and reacting to drummers from both of these drummers.  Of course… To that list you can add Peter Erskine’s name who knows how to paint beautiful pictures with a drum set!

I have been blessed to have played with these guys and they have given me lots of food for thought and infinite rhythmic ideas - inspiration for years to come, and plenty of ammunition for playing and improvising within a rhythm section!  I am blessed to have these experiences!

Of course, I have had the pleasure of playing with many drummers along the way on sessions and live gigs in my 37 years of playing music professionally.  To name a few: Jeff Porcaro, Jim Keltner, J.R. Robinson, Dennis Chambers, Steve Gadd, Carmine Appice, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mark Craney, Ricky Lawson, David Garibaldi, Carlos Vega,

Terry Bozzio, Ndugu, Narada Michael Walden, Alex Acuna, Steve Ferrone, Harvey Mason, Charlie Watts, Andre’ Fischer, Greg Bissonette and Terri Lynn Carrington...

Editor’s note: YIKES!

This gives your readers an idea of the different genre’s and styles I’ve worked with and I can tell you that playing music with this much variety just makes you a better player on many levels!

BAJ:  Let’s move to another subject… Have you been playing the Steinberger electric upright bass lately?  Also, will this instrument begin touring with you more often?

Jimmy:  Well actually no... I played the Steinberger NS Electric Upright on one recording, and it was part of my evaluation for Mr. Steinberg of the instrument. At the time, I believe that mainly two guys were playing it: Tony Levin and Rob Wasserman.   Mr. Steinberger was looking for more input from some other players.  I was recommended by Mike Tobias to check this instrument out and they sent me a loaner to evaluate.  I enjoyed playing it and used it on two songs for the  Yellowjackets Dreamland recording, in 1995.

BAJ:  That’s where I saw the photo of you with that instrument – as I have all your discs!  I liked the sound of the instrument, and I heard how similar your electric bass sound was to the EUB, circa 1995.  That you for answering this one – it’s mostly my own question (HA!)

Jimmy: I was looking to have an electric upright that came really close to the sound of an acoustic upright bass.  This was a beautiful instrument and extremely well crafted,  but not exactly what I was looking for at the time.  So, I reserve myself to the thought that it may be impossible to find an electric instrument that will totally emulate the sound of an acoustic bass!

I actually come as close to emulating the acoustic bass on my electric Roscoe, MTD and some other electric basses I have here in my little arsenal.  As I am, in a way,  a frustrated upright player,  I’ve never really played the acoustic upright.  It’s been part of my quest to make the electric bass guitar sound as much like an upright as possible... Something I am constantly working on in my practice regimen.

BAJ:  What “near future” projects are you hoping to participate in?

Jimmy:  Along with some of the one’s I mentioned before… I am hoping to record and produce a live Jing Chi CD at the end of the year!  We’ll just have to see how the gigs turn out!  So far, we have a 6-day booking up in Oakland and a few possible gigs brewing.  If we have a bona fide little tour lined up, it will make sense to make this recording.  We need to do some live playing and get revved up!!! I am also looking forward to the Yellowjackets DVD project I mentioned!!     

BAJ:  As you’re a family man, what is down-time like for you?

Jimmy:  That’s an important question, as I am very much into my family life and fight with myself to keep some sort of balance between my family and my career.  I’m also a workaholic and enjoy my work! 

I also enjoy going to sporting events as I was really into sports in school!  I have taken my wife and daughter and step sons to many pro football, basketball, hockey and baseball games.  Living in Los Angeles,  there are plenty of sports to check out: 

Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Dodgers and we use to have the Raiders and the Rams…

Now, we will go to San Diego and check out the Chargers, or we go up to San Francisco to check out the 49ers!

My stepson, Noah, is a really serious Suns fan and we will even take a trip to Phoenix to check them out!

Sports are a good release and enjoyable entertainment!  I enjoy a good sporting event and I am lucky that my whole family loves to good to sporting events!!!  I also love museums, film, plays… and watching my daughter play baseball!

BAJ:  You have a great instruction book on the market, but will there be an instructional video, or play-along book anytime soon?

Jimmy:  Nothing soon on the video, but I will have a three book play-along series out sometime this Summer called, Anatomy of a Trio, a Study of Melody for Bass.

It will be a “music minus one” concept within a basic guitar trio setting.

I worked on this book series with guitarist Barry Coates and we feature drummer Kendal Kay.  It’s a Study of 27 Jazz Standards, 9 tunes in each book, and focuses on the bass playing the melodies, improvisation and also takes a look at some re-harmonization concepts. 

BAJ:  Though not widely known, you have participated in a couple L.A. based music schools (LAMA and MI specifically) for the past several years.  What is your take on teaching, and would you do more of that – given the time?

Jimmy:  I have been teaching at LAMA (Los Angeles Music Academy) in Pasadena,

California and have done some clinics at MI (Musicians Institute) in Hollywood. I also been teaching around the world doing clinics and master classes all over Europe, Japan, South America, South Africa, the U.S. and Canada.

I enjoy teaching and have many subjects to touch on with students of music and music business.  It’s very rewarding to teach and to help musicians increase their growth and knowledge!  As I mentioned before, I have been doing this now for 37

Years, and I have gained a lot of knowledge along the way.  I am willing to  share this knowledge with anyone who wants it and want to help students in any way I possibly can to succeed in music as a career, whether it be in education and/or performance. 

BAJ:  What have you been listening to lately?

Jimmy:  Quite a bit of stuff…!  Lots of Latin music in preparation for my next solo recording.  I got  these great DAT tapes from a friend in New York... guitarist Steve khan,  who has become an expert in modern Latin Salsa music - which is vibrant in the New York scene, right now!  He sends me these home made compilations of tunes from his own collection and it’s really a serious collection!!

I really dig pat Metheny’s playing and I have been studying a pile of his music and his playing! I’ve also been digging guitarists John Scofield, Pat Martino, Nguyen Le and Mike Stern!

Editor’s note:  See March 2002’s Global Bass Guitarist Roundtable to learn more about Steve Khan!!

Lots of Hendrix, Miles Davis’ Miles Smiles, and trombonist Michael Davis’ Brass Nation, Ravel’s Bolero, and Alban Berg’s Lulu Suite have also been heavily listened to in my house lately!

BAJ:  I have read that you like to practice for many hours each day.  Thank you for telling players that it is about spending time in the practice chair, by the way!  What kind of things do you practice?

Jimmy:  Lately I have been shedding guitar players!   As you can see from what I have been listening to… A lot of guitarists!  I stopped exclusively playing 6 string fretless bass around 1997 and decided to spend a lot of time on the 6 string fretted bass and I wanted to consume lots of guitar technique.

In the Yellowjackets, there is no guitar and that’s a space I can occupy within the band comfortably and subtly adding those kind of colors to the ensemble. It gives me another place to go as I have a strong electric bass sound with the capability of emulating the acoustic bass and now adding some guitaristic colors to that, I am able to bring these different sounds and colors in and out of the music and the improvisation setting of the band.  For that matter, I can bring these different sounds and colors to any band if the space is available!

I also practice certain scales and I spend a lot of time working on improvisational material.  Just working on being good on my feet and taking certain interesting progressions on the road with me to practice soloing on. It’s a never ending education, you see...

BAJ:  Back to Jing Chi (briefly) you played keyboards and sang on In My Dreams.  How many of the tunes you compose start out having lyrics?  Also, what’s it like to present your keyboard-written compositions to (Yellowjackets keyboardist and composer) Russ Ferrante’?  I’ve often thought that it must be strange – as you’ve often said that you don’t consider yourself a keyboardist.  Please tell us about your writing procedure.  Thank you!

Jimmy:  When writing songs for a lyric, or having a lyric to work with, and

then arranging/writing harmony to a lyric… This is all interesting to me and I’ve done a fair amount of it!  I’ve written quite a few songs with Marilyn Scott and several other lyricists.  I mostly write instrumental music though… And YES! My keyboard chops are funky.  In other words, Not good! (Laughter!)

I would love to spend more time on piano or a keyboard and even sometimes get

a bit of practice in on them.  It’s always an adventure… But, understand that I have been writing on keyboards since 1980 and I have written a large body of work on keyboards.

I’ve been writing and arranging music with Russell Ferrante for the entire time for Yellowjackets, Eric Marienthal, Bob Mintzer, Marilyn Scott, Michael Franks, Robben Ford, Bobby Caldwell, Lori Perry, Leonardo Amuedo and Lee  Ritenour for example…

I feel totally comfortable writing with Russell and he basically just laughs at my technique,  but the bottom line is that we have a creative bond and serious chemistry when we write together.  I am not ashamed to say that I have learned a lot from my writing experiences with Russell… He is a master of harmony and a great teacher!

I now have a simple little writing station in my office with an MPC 2000 drum machine/sequencer, two Roland D50’s, a Roland JV2080 and a Yamaha

FS1.  I have plenty of sounds to create music and the most important part of writing is the ideas!  You have to have good ideas and I spend a lot of time working on composition.  It’s another aspect of music that I love and enjoy and strive to progress in this area of my career.

As far as Jing Chi is concerned… Most of the music we wrote together in a jam setting at Vinnie’s house and that was a total blast!  We had plenty of fun creating the music for this CD and that’s really what you want in the long run!  I think when you have a writing partner or partners,  it makes it easier and makes it a fun packed, joyful experience!

BAJ:  Right on!  I have to say that your answers in this interview have been beyond the call of duty!  This has been one of the best bass lessons I’ve ever had!

Last question…  What have you always wanted to say in an interview, but no one has ever given you the open door to say?

Jimmy:  I can truly say that I been asked just about everything in an interview as I have been doing interviews now since the mid seventies with a variety of bands and artists that I’ve been recording and performing, and more recently in the past 8 years, producing!

I enjoy talking to people about music and I have been inundated with doing interviews since the beginning of the Yellowjackets in 1980 as a founding member. With 11 Grammy nominations and 2 Grammy wins, a Dove award and many appearances in critics and people’s Jazz poles… It’s been an incredible run on all levels and I look forward to continue on all levels and even increasing my involvement as a producer in the years to come.  Thanks for having me here on Global Bass!!  Peace and Harmony to you and your readers!!

Wow!  I interviewed Jimmy Haslip, and you are all witness!  I’m blessed by the experience.  Thank you, Jimmy.  You’re a great cat and a fantastic player.  I will forever appreciate what you are doing.  By the way… You prove (as so many others have) that it is really about being a great person, and not just a great player!

Get Jing Chi as soon as you can, folks!  I can’t tell you how desperately I want to see this band live!  Wow.  Check out Jimmy’s new website at:, and get your copy of Yellowjacket’s Mint Jam, at:  


Brent-Anthony endorses Status Graphite Basses, Aguilar Amplification, Wayne Jones Bass Enclosures, and HotWires Strings






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