Bassically speaking – Mike Matthews

Both acoustic and electric bassists have influenced me due to my fascination with jazz. It’s hard to pinpoint favourites, but Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius and Anthony Jackson are certainly among them. I continue to enjoy the challenge of the four string electric bass and love the fact that anything played on the acoustic bass, aside from Arco, is easily transferable. The secret of playing bass well is that there is no secret. There’s certainly magic in all good music, but playing with a solid time feel, a great ITEM03_mike mathews 2sound and being dedicated enough to work on one’s shortcomings is pretty obvious. Understanding how the whole musical jigsaw fits together also helps to create meaningful bass lines. This naturally involves some serious listening. The two basses that I use for 95% of my work are Music Man Stingray and Status Empathy fretless. Rob Green made the fretless for me over 20 years ago. It’s my “no excuses” bass because it plays so beautifully that the only limitations are my own. I’ve never been able to find a finer instrument. The Music Man is a good workhorse, it was purchased to nationally tour the original Melbourne run of the Cats theatre show. I played 650 shows with this bass over a two-year period so it has become my “old pair of jeans”. The down- side is that if I see a cat now I want to tread on it… I have enjoyed playing a large cross-section of musical styles in my career; from touring with the late Gene Pitney, to jazz gigs with virtuoso Joe Chindamo. I feel that keeping an open mind is important in developing a unique style. Most of my favourite players have musically diverse backgrounds that contribute strongly to their musical personalities, so perhaps being a purist is a little overrated. I’m currently promoting my new release Mosaic, which is very much a reflection of my musical philosophy. Although the album is peppered with great improvised solos by some fine musicians, it also features tight, detailed arrangements in a wide variety of styles including funk, swing, Latin and even some Bach. The bass-lines I created to execute the tracks required my fretless, fretted and piccolo basses, and a variety of techniques, including slapping, tapping and muted thumb. Vive la différence! 

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