Turning back into a true listening fan of the music
As I get ready to go into the studio next month to make my fifth album as a band leader, the word preparation has been on my mind. Being on vacation right now doesn’t exactly feel like the best preparation to be playing to the best of my ability (yep, I left all things bass at home for three and a half weeks…), but it’s opened up a whole other avenue of listening that feels incredibly productive.
Shortly before I left LA for Europe I was in the studio jamming with Hadrien Feraud and a great guitarist called Charles Artura. Charles plays quite a bit of piano too, and late night he was rattling off all this Chopin, Debussy, and Liszt. I was immediately inspired to start listening to that music again and loaded my ipod with as much of it as I could before getting on the plane this week. It’s been great to just listen to different things and not immediately try and pick up the bass and play them. I start to feel some of these melodies showing up in my thought process just from the intake of them via the iPod, and find myself not worrying about the performance aspect of them at all. As musicians, if we’ve spent a decent amount of time with our instrument over the years, we have a pretty good grasp on playing things we hear. Some more than others of course, it all depends on what level your ear is at, but we all have a basic ability for sure. Listening to much to these melodies and ideas in different genres of music than I’m normally used to listening to, seems to be great mental preparation for retaining more information that I might normally.
It all remains to be seen of course, how much I do retain when I eventually get back home and start playing again, but this new feeling of extra information retention is quite liberating right now. It’s as though taking the physical playing aspect out of the work flow is giving me extra energy to concentrate on what actually matters to me: increasing my vocabulary of natural melodic ideas and techniques. It’s so counter intuitive to me not to play my bass when I’m working on lots of different music ideas, but with this self inflicted break from playing it’s opened up this whole new world of more concentrated listening.
I really do hope it translates back to my performance as much as it feels like it might when I return home in a few weeks, and I’m so looking forward to putting this new recording together. We’re going to track Peter Erskine and Alan Pasqua in Los Angeles in the middle of Aug, then have a series of overdub sessions in New York the following week that will include Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Lizzy Loeb, and a few other special guests… and then I’m traveling to Europe a month later to record some more of my favorite musicians in the world. This album is once again a departure from the last, and will feature lots of writing, lots of new collaborations, and some of my oldest friends.
So check out taking a break for a few days and just soaking up some music. I think you might find a lot of value in listening closer to something new, and taking away the element of being a musician while you do so. Turning yourself back into a true listening fan of the music again just like we were when we heard that first thing that inspired us to search further.