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Rick Suchow: Bass

the making of jaco's 'modern electric bass'...



In the May 1985 issue of Modern Recording & Music, writer Cheech Iero's article examines the technical aspects of Jaco's video project with Jerry Jemmott, which later was released as "Modern Electric Bass".

Here are a few excerpts:

The Abe Rivera Bass: "Neither one of these instruments is really my bass," reminded Jaco Pastorius. "I'm using Jerry Jemmott's bass. Both of my main basses have fallen apart, which is a bad time since I'm doing the video. But it's cool, because I'm not really burnin' out. I'm showing more technique and stuff." Holding the beautifully scrolled instrument he added, "This Rivera bass sounds good, doesn't it?" The instrument's designer Jerry Jemmott actually played acoustic bass before he moved on to the electric bass. "When I designed that bass, I wanted a natural sound in the instrument," Jemmott recalled, "yet when I'm playing electric bass I also want that electric sound. So I wanted an instrument that could do both. I also wanted it to be lightweight and easy to play. It originally had frets on it, but I pulled the frets out. It sounded so good, and so warm with the frets. I felt it would sound even more fantastic without the frets. Jaco loves it! Abe Rivera did all the design, all the beautiful work. That's his forte. It's semi-hollow in design. The wood is maple, ebony, and some type of red wood."

The Power Failure: The second part of the day's shoot was to be the trio of Jaco, John Scofield and Kenwood Dennard. (Rob) Wallis explained to the musicians that he wanted to capture some odd time playing, and the musicians discussed what direction the music should take as they made the fine adjustments to their instruments. But before they could play the first note there was a power failure. Because of the extra lighting, video equipment, and musical instruments, there was a power overload and the breaker went off. The maintenance crew soon had things happening again and the work continued.

Recording Jaco's Bass: As far as Pastorius' bass was concerned Phil (Kapp, engineer) explained, "One side of it is coming in through a direct box, and the other channel is a Neumann U47 FET micing an Ampeg B15. By blending both the direct and the bass amp sounds, you capture a very realistic impression of the bass. Beacause the amp almost rattles at times, there's a certain degree of intermodulation distortion, which kind of becomes part of the bass sound. While at the same time, the direct side provides a more pure sound. So I find that a combination of the two is very desirable."


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