Geddy Puts Jaco Pastorius on Bass Player Mountaintop
Jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius is at the top of the mountain of bass greats, Geddy says in an interview he gave last Monday with Sirius/XM Deep Tracks Programming Director Earle Bailey.
Pastorius, who played for Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Al Di Meola, Ian Hunter, among others, is at “a place you couldn’t even approach,” Geddy says. “Sometimes a little bit of his fairy dust might rub off on you when you pretend to play like he does.”
The Deep Tracks show, called “Around the Basses with Rush’s Geddy Lee,” was structured to showcase Geddy’s twin passions of bass playing and baseball. For about a quarter of the show, Bailey asked Geddy to give his thoughts on the new baseball season. No surprise that Geddy thinks the Toronto Blue Jays, his hometown team, will do pretty well this year.
For the bulk of the show, Bailey asked Geddy about bass players he’s admired over the years. In addition to Pastorius, Geddy said big influences from jazz were Stanley Clark and Jeff Berlin, who he says he got to know when Berlin played bass on the solo albums of Yes drummer Bill Bruford.
In rock, Geddy singled out the work of Jack Bruce of Cream, Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Airplane, and John Entwistle of The Who.
Another bass player of note is Paul McCartney, who Geddy called “underrated” as a bass player, “very melodic, knows how to write a bass part that can carry a song.” Bailey played “Mrs. Vandebilt” from Wings’ 1973 Band on the Run album to showcase McCartney’s bass.
Geddy says he stated out playing guitar but took up the bass in the mid-1960s because that’s what his first band needed. He and his bandmates put together a set of about five songs, including “As Tears Go By” by the Rolling Stones, and entered a Battle of the Bands contest in Toronto. They didn’t win.
As a composer, Geddy says he has no trouble finding melodies on the bass and he often writes using bass chords, in part because it’s become second nature for him to figure out root chords on the bass. He also writes on keyboards and occasionally on guitar.
To close off the show, Geddy was asked to choose a cut from Clockwork Angels, Rush’s latest album. He chose closing track “The Garden,” the first song Geddy composed in his new home studio.
Bailey played cuts from all of the bass players Geddy mentioned in the interview. You can listen to the show in its entirety here or on YouTube. Thanks to Rush is a Band for the head’s up and to Matt M., who is credited with recording and posting the interview on YouTube.