... and very comprehensive answers!
There is nothing to discuss about the fact that Jimmy Haslip, bassplayer, and member of the Yellow Jackets from the beginning, is a personality of his own. - Whoever had the chance to be at their concert in Berlin (July 12th, Tränenpalast) will agree: Haslip is a most soulful and elaborate bass-player.
The Yellow Jackets today still cultivate their fusion-roots - although they always use to integrate lots of influences from current musical trends. With co-founder Russell Ferrante on piano and keyboards, Bob Mintzer on saxophone and Marcus Baylor on drums, they took their listeners along on a journey to past and future of heartfelt music.
Carina: You are one of the founders of the Yellow Jackets - what would you say is the reason for the group staying together for so many years?
Jimmy: You know, Russell Ferrante and I are the founding members of the band and we have been very, very good friends now for twenty-three years. The reason that the two of us have stayed together is that we really have a lot of similarities as far as what we like musically. So, there is no conflict in the focus and the vision of what the band is. That has a lot to do with the longevity of the group.
Any band really goes through personal changes, if the band is at all able to stay together for a long, long time. - I mean, even the Rolling Stones - not too long ago - had a personal change with Bill Wyman and Darryl Jones! But the thing is, a band like the Yellow Jackets has held a lot of opportunities, we both have been able to do a lot of work outside of the group. Which, I think, keeps a very fresh and viril atmosphere. We go out and we play with other people outside the band. That gives us other ideas and new ways of thinking about the music - and so this is constant importing and exporting of ideas and feelings and focus and concepts and the whole gamut!
So, in twenty-two years we have managed to make seventeen records and we have managed to be nominated for eleven Grammies. - Which is also sort of a boost, when you are accepted and honored by your peers - through the recording academy like that. I mean, that is an honor, to be honest with you! Just to be nominated is an honor - and that in itself is "feel for inspiration".
And we can't forget the fan-base that we have developed and built over the years. We have a very strong fan-base and they are very supportive! We have had a website up for about four years and they are always there and giving us support. So with all those elements, in fact Russell and I have managed to keep writing music and are able to keep the creative flame alive on many levels. These are some of the reasons, why the band stayed together as long as it has.
Carina: How would you characterize your unusual style of playing the bass? You are playing left-handed?
Yes, I am left-handed. I am self-taught for the most part, although I
have studied with many musicians through my thirty-five years of playing
the instrument. Well, it's unusual - and when I started playing in 1964,
it was difficult to find a left-handed bass. So I was playing a right-handed
bass. And I didn't bother just turn the strings around, because I didn't
know that you are supposed to do that! In some aspects, it is very unusual
and unconventional - but I have managed to perpetuate my enthusiasm for
After playing an instrument for 35 years, I think one person would find a sort of voice on this instrument. I feel I have come to that point: at some level I found a "voice" on the instrument through playing it as long as I have. However, I still consider myself a student of music. So I practice still quite a bit and I feel like I am still learning about the instrument.
I know that my style is unusual as far as the technique goes. But as far as the notes that I play, and the music that is being played with the Yellow Jackets or with any other artist that I worked with, I don't feel like that I am that much different from anybody else. And I do have people that I look towards for inspiration like Jaco Pastorius and James Jamerson sr., Dave Holland, Miles Davis - thousands of other people, artists, writers etc. I looked in many directions for inspiration and I just feel like I still have a lot of growth in front of me.
Carina: Did you - at one time - plan to become a musician? How did it happen?
Jimmy: It sort of "fell in my lap", so to say. I didn't start up thinking I was being a professional musician in my adulthood. Sports were really my focus - I really wanted to be a professional athlete. Because of injuries and things like that it didn't happen. So, anyway - music was a big part of my life as a child. My older brother listened to jazz and classical music, my mother and father to big bands and Latin music. Through my peers, growing up, I listened to everything from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. There was always lots of music in the house.
You know, I am half-Puertorican - my family took a lot of time in making sure that I was connected to my cultural roots and my family-tree. And music is a big part of the Puertorican culture, of the Latin culture. It is just as important as the food and the language.
Jimmy Haslip - "Red Heat" (2000)
So, in being that involved in music, it was very easy actually to move in this direction and be a professional musician. And as time ran on, I realized that it was another form of communication. Especially being in a band like the Yellow Jackets for twenty-two years, this form of communication has gone to yet another level. Because when you play with the same musicians for a long, long period of time - it goes beyond like "looking at notes on a piece of paper", it´s actually conversational. It becomes yet another language. On the surface, I am bilingual, because I speak English and Spanish. But in a deeper sense I am "trilingual" - because I speak the language of music.
CD: Jimmy Haslip - "Red Heat" (out now!)
Yellow Jackets on the web: www.yellowjackets.com
Photos: Steve Sakellarios 1998 (courtesy www.yellowjackets.com)