I had gotten to the club in the Mission district by 6pm – a little before the agreed upon time. It was June 18th, 2008. Listening to an old live Headhunters broadcast from Keystone Berkeley, I marveled at the rich, syncopated bass lines I was hearing again. With my amp in the back of my truck, I was ready to meet Paul Jackson tonight, who was flying in from Japan for a show and some studio sessions.
Among the many reasons why Paul Jackson has been a mentor and deep influence of mine is his genius for creating new bass lines on the fly within the context of playing deep grooves. If you are a dancer, you might feel like Paul is playing the same line throughout a tune, grooving all night long, but if you are a bassist and listen closely you hear him constantly reaching for new variations; subtle differences within the original context.
My friend and drummer Mick had picked him up that night from the airport, having arranged a gig to play with him while he was in town. I was providing the amp. Paul was also excited to help us with our style book: The Bassist’s Bible, and had invited us to join him in the studio over the next few days, so I was looking forward to a long weekend of grooves, tall tales, and deep information.
I brought my amp in and found some of the other players, a few of which I had also played with. As we talked I could feel the excitement of this intimate club gig with one of the biggest bass legends in Funk and Jazz.
The first set was amazing. Paul made the band feel at ease, though he had not played with any of them before and was playful, having the time of his life, obviously happy to be home in the Bay Area playing with a killer band assembled just for him. Talking with him between sets, he was engaging, as we talked out what we needed to cover for the book tomorrow in the studio. We chatted about his home of the last several decades in Japan, and how different it was for him since he had left the Bay Area. When I asked “When are you coming home?” he brightened up and said something to the effect that he might be coming home soon.
After reminiscing a bit with Paul about a discussion he had with Stanley Clarke, and chatting about some of the features of Paul’s new custom bass, he said “Let’s meet about 11, you and I have an agenda” and he again talked about a “finger trick” he wanted to show me.
The club filled up for the second set, and the crowd was not disappointed to hear him begin with a solo rendition of “Pain” which he said he had never performed live in his life. The band moved through “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “Chameleon”, and “Song for my Father” (being Fathers Day.) The crowd went nuts. He left the stage to sustained applause. (See a live video performance of “Pain” in 2013 from the Paul Jackson Trio at the bottom of this post.)
For the third set, Paul played piano and sang with the young band who had followed his two sets. Talking after the show, Paul mentioned his previous back surgery and other physical issues that led to his song “Pain”. We moved to talking about the music business and the ‘Net and when I mentioned that I code web sites for my bands and some of my musician friends, he immediately jumped on that. “You do web sites, you’re a bassist AND you speak English! We have got to talk.” I’m sure trying to describe what he wanted for a site layout to a Japanese non-musician had it’s challenges. Before he left town we agreed I would build his new web site.
Thus began an awesome professional association as well as a deep friendship with Paul that continues to this day. Durning the next few days Paul gave us the keys to his kingdom, showing us how to integrate harmonics into lines, his use of anticipation, and a host of other tools in Funk as well as elements of his personal style.
As the book was nearing completion, some time later, I asked him if he would be interested in writing the intro and he immediately agreed. We put it together during a long phone call to Japan one morning, breaking it down using segments from his youth when he first learned to play upright while going to school in Oakland. The following is an excerpt from that intro:
“THE BASS IS A DEEP INSTRUMENT. The styles with the most impact have bass. The deeper the foundation the more stable the building — and the higher you can go. It is almost a language when you play bass, and each person speaks their own dialect. It’s something that you can develop.”
“Having a book like The Bassist’s Bible, that has this kind of thing in it — having it all written down along with the examples on the CDs is a great tool, something I wish I had had when I was coming up. I am helping with this book because I feel an obligation to pass on what I know, and this is a way to do it.”
“This book is very important and I think every bassist should own it.”
Here is a video recorded in 2013 Live in Korea of Paul playing his song “Pain” with his band The Paul Jackson Trio. They have a new album out “Groove or Die” and tour regularly.
For more information about Paul Jackson, visit his web site Pauljacksonbass dot com. You will find video, online bass lessons, and info about his new album and tours.