Bass Player

Tim Le­feb­vre

How do you progress from play­ing sin­gle notes on an acous­tic gui­tar to play­ing bass with the world’s best-known mu­si­cians? Let’s ask the great Tim Le­feb­vre...

- In­ter­view: Jennifer Ot­ter Bick­erdike Info: www.tim­le­feb­vre­mu­ David Bowie · Belarus · Austria · London · London Records · Jay-Z · East Coast · Iceland · California · United States of America · United Kingdom · Rihanna · Quincy Jones · Mark Twain · Jason Mraz · Linkin Park · Laura Pergolizzi · Belgium · Darryl Jones · Victor Bailey · Victor Bailey · Marcus Miller · Sting · James Jamerson · Charlie Haden · Ron Carter · Scott LaFaro · Maria Schneider · Benny Goodman · Miles Davis

Life af­ter Bowie, ex­plained in de­tail by the great Le­feb­vre. Jennifer Bick­erdike asks the ques­tions

Imeet up with Tim Le­feb­vre on a windy, rainy pre-spring evening. He has just com­pleted a mas­ter­class at the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Mod­ern Mu­sic In­sti­tute (BIMM) in Lon­don, ahead of per­form­ing with JZ Re­place­ment at the Vor­tex in Lon­don. Star-struck stu­dents line up to get au­to­graphs and take self­ies with the na­tive East Coaster.

De­spite his well-earned celebrity sta­tus and his his­tory along­side jazz leg­ends and rock ti­tans such as Wayne Krantz and David Bowie, Le­feb­vre is in­cred­i­bly down to earth, jok­ing around about our shared American up­bring­ing, records we both love and how ex­pen­sive real es­tate is in his adopted home of Cal­i­for­nia. It’s a lot of

fun com­par­ing junk food in the US with that in the UK, but it isn’t long be­fore the con­ver­sa­tion turns to mu­sic and we get down to the busi­ness at hand…

How did you get into play­ing the bass in the first place, Tim?

In my school band pro­gramme, you had to start with a wood­wind in­stru­ment, so I played sax­o­phone ini­tially. One Christ­mas, some­one gave my sis­ter an acous­tic gui­tar; I was snatch­ing it up and play­ing it along to records. I was only play­ing one sin­gle note; I wasn’t play­ing chords. I was try­ing to fig­ure out the riffs. My dad was a mid­dleschool mu­sic teacher. He heard me mess­ing around and said ‘You’re a bass player’, and he was 100 per­cent right. I ended up play­ing some gigs with him. He did a lot of cor­po­rate func­tions and wed­dings, so I had to learn all the songs: swingy stan­dard stuff, three-part har­monies, bar­ber­shop quar­tet. I never loved it, but it was a good way to learn.

Who are your bass in­flu­ences?

The holy grail for me is Dar­ryl Jones, Vic­tor Bailey, Mar­cus Miller, Sting, James Jamer­son, to name a few. Then there are the clas­sic jazz bass play­ers – Char­lie Haden, Ron Carter, Scott LaFaro. Too many to count.

You just showed me your Black­star tat­too. What’s the story be­hind you work­ing with David Bowie?

As a child of the 80s, I grew up with [Bowie’s 1983 al­bum] Let’s Dance. I knew all the big hits, like ‘Fame’ and ‘Young Amer­i­cans’, but it wasn’t un­til I started


work­ing with Bowie that I be­came a real fan. When he put out The Next Day [2013], he de­cided he wanted to do a jazz record. I think he ini­tially asked Maria Sch­nei­der to do it, but she was too busy work­ing on her own record and handed him a Donny McCaslin CD with me, Mark Gu­liana and Ja­son Lind­ner on it – and he loved it. Bowie then came to see us at the 55 Bar. I didn’t know un­til af­ter the gig that he at­tended the show. He was sold, and hired us to do the next record, which be­came Black­star.

The rest is his­tory.

How did you first dis­cover jazz?

My dad lis­tened to a lot of the big band LPs. He liked Benny Good­man and all the white swing stuff, so there were al­ways records around. My older brother Steve was hip­per, and he started in­flu­enc­ing my taste, so we just went down the worm­hole – hard. Miles Davis, Coltrane, you know: just ob­sessed. Lis­ten­ing to Coltrane was a pretty rad­i­cal no­tion in high school.

How can a bassist who is in­ter­ested in jazz get started?

An al­bum to be­gin with is by Miles Davis. It has that com­bi­na­tion of be­ing both just easy on the ears and still rad­i­cal. It is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from any­thing else. Miles went from play­ing

Kind Of Blue

stan­dards to play­ing what you hear on that LP. It’s dark sound­ing, but at the same time, it has this pleas­ing qual­ity to it that ev­ery­body res­onates with. I’m pretty sure it is still the best-sell­ing jazz record in his­tory. Another one that comes to mind is Coltrane’s

Sound. There is a box set on At­lantic that’s in mono, as those records were orig­i­nally recorded that way – it’s amaz­ing.

What ad­vice should all bas­sists re­mem­ber?

Just the ba­sics, but they are cru­cial. Al­ways be pre­pared, of course; have a good time do­ing your job; and get the good fun­da­men­tals down. Lastly, it is im­por­tant to try to be cre­ative within what­ever gig you’re work­ing on.

 ?? Pho­tos: Eugene Petrushan­skiy ??
Pho­tos: Eugene Petrushan­skiy
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