An interview with Reggie Washington: Great tunes come when life & music come together … Videos

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Jazz interview with jazz bassist Reggie Washington. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Reggie Washington: – I grew up in New York City during the 60’s and 70’s. A lot of things (World events, music, culture, etc.) were happening at this time. My parents (especially my father) exposed us to all genre of music! My brother (Kenny) is one of the finest jazz drummers in the World and teaches at Juilliard School of Music. My sister (Yvette) is a music teacher with 35+ years of tenure at a prestigious academy in New York. Music was a central part of growing up. I remember hearing music in my house day & night!    Records to cassettes & reel-to-reel tapes up to 18 hours a day!

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the bass guitar?

RW: – A few things influenced my decision to play bass. 1) Reggie Workman coming to my house in 1969 with his bass. 2) In the early 70’s my 3rd “Big Brutha” Herman Hill left his Fender Bass at my house when he was stationed in Germany in The Army. 3) One of my homies Dave Inniss played bass and I’d mess around on his bass at his house until my Mom hooked me up with my 1st (Kramer 5001 fretless) bass. 4) A young 15 yr. old Marcus Miller would come every weekend in the late 70’s to my house in Staten Islandto learn about Jazz music from my brother.  

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the bass guitar?

RW: – I had teachers/mentors all through my career that had a positive influence on me. Orchestra conductors (Anthony Diaz, Leo Sevush, Roger Swift) music teachers (Susan Olsen-Maren, Arnold Ogren, Nathan Axel, Martin Gottesfeld) & bass teachers (Paul West, Victor Venegas, Sal Cuevas) helped steer me in a good music direction from early on. I fell in love with the bass because you can feel it.  I challenged myself to play one…& there were NO prospects in New York City for a young black cellist, my 1st serious instrument in the mid-70’s.  

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

RW: – In 1982, I found a luthier that I could ask anything about basses & sound and he would explain it to me. Woody Phifer of Phifer Designs Signature Guitars & Basses and I have been together for over 30 years! He understood what I wanted to sound like…& made the bass I play now. The body is 27 years old & the original neck was replaced 10 years ago after an accident. I’m a Fender Age baby coming up in the time when that sound was getting popular in music performance and recording.  It was “Fender Jazz” the sound that stayed in my head! I was there in the Fender modification days too! Through experimentation, trial & error we finally reproduced the sound “from my head” coming out of my gear. I have “My Sound”.   

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

RW: – I don’t have a special practice routine nowadays. I’m always listening to different genre of music. It keeps me sharp trying to adapt to all kinds of music. I do try to practice everyday to keep in-shape rehearse as if it’s a concert.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

RW: – I’ve always seen music as shapes, mosaics & sound tapestries. Great tunes come when life & music come together… which could be any assorted group of harmonic patterns! Music is so much more than just harmonic patterns. Music is emotion…*    

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

RW: – Believe in what YOU are doing! If you’re sincere in this musical quest, it’ll work out. It’s a hard road. For me, it was worth it. I’m still rising, learning, exploring! Take control of your OWN destiny! Some folks can get a record deal. Others can’t. Rainbow Shadow Volume 2 is my 4th CD on my wife/manager Stefany’s Jammin’ colorS Label. I have control of what I want to do, what to play & whom I want to play with! It’s a liberating feeling. You don’t have to be super-famous to be around for a long time! I try to tell the young folks to be ready for the long haul. 

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

RW: – If that means making jazz a product…No. Jazz needs to evolve. You can’t package Evolution!       The way this business is going, we’re going to need some serious unity from within! People need to work together better or there won’t be anything left to work for or aspire to. Unity is the key!  

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

RW: – You have to find a link between what the younger minds like and to the past. What they listen to had to come from something &/or from somewhere. That’s why it’s important to study the ancestors & understand where this music came from. Those half century old tunes are good tunes. That shouldn’t stop you from playing or listening to something. The young people need a way and a place to discover Jazz. Through my music, folks can discover many different kinds of music. Hopefully they’ll appreciate it enough to search for more.     

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

RW: – Music for me is a gift. It has the power to change! Change the way people feel & think. Now more than ever we need to spread a positive message through the music! I try to do that every time I step on the stage.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

RW: – The geo-political climate in the World just makes the business of music harder. You have politicians making IDIOT policy that makes it more difficult to travel safely for me & other fellow musicians, (i.e. drummer Alvin Queen, bassist Stanley Clarke). The assorted problems when traveling from country to country, the tightened security at festivals, etc. I can’t let that stop me, but I have to be more cautious. I won’t let fear & stupidity get in my way.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

RW: – My new CD of Rainbow Shadow – Volume 2 will release this coming December 1st 2017! I’m very happy to be continuing “A Tribute to Jef Lee Johnson”. Volume #1 (on Jammin’ colorS Label) received some great reviews after it’s 2015 release. For me, the legacy of “Rainbow Shadow” continues. Check out www.reggiewashington-official.com & www.jammincolors.com for more info about Rainbow Shadow & my other projects, workshops & master classes!

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

RW: – YES! I think ALL music is related in some way. ALL music has some kind of beat & all music makes you feel a certain way. That’s world, folk & jazz music.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

RW: – This month I listened to Roy Hargrove & RH Factor (I just did a Japan tour with the band after 13 years doing my solo career), Jay Dilla, Thelonious Monk, Manuel Valera, James Brown, Bob Marley, Gene Lake, Burt Bacharach with Dionne Warwick & a lot of my Rainbow Shadow Volume 2 mix/master! I’ll try to check out some Jacques Schwarz-Bart/Omar Sosa Duo project, Louis “Pops” Armstrong and Fort Apache Band next month.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

RW: – I’m a Markbass Amp endorser!  I have a Little Mark Tube 800 amp for doubling gigs (acoustic & electric) and a MoMark 800-SJ amp (electric only) along with two 104HR cabinets or a 106HR or HF cabinet. I use a combination of George L’s & Prolink Monster instrument cables with an Essential Sound Products MusiCord Pro power cable to be “wired with confidence”. My bass is a 1991 Phifer Designs Woody Signature Series 4-string bass. I also have a Safran Instruments fretless bass & an old Tyrolean flatback acoustic bass. I don’t really use pedals on stage. I do have a few Markbass pedals (Flanger/Chorus, Octaver, Bass Synth), an old BOSS Octaver, Pigtronix Bass Phaser & Infinity Looper I mess around with in the studio.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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