'Tis the season for The Little Drummer Boy. But that metronomic kid has had more than his fair share of attention since 1941. What about the little bassist boys and girls? Seems un-holiday-like to ignore them, leave proverbial lumps of coal in their stocking, no? So this issue is devoted to all those hard-working bassists, lugging their instruments through the snowdrifts outside your window. There should be a special "nice" list just for them.
George Mraz (Cover) has been a veritable Santa's Helper for everyone from Oscar Peterson to Joe Lovano but this month he drives the sleigh himself in a rare leader gig. Matthew Garrison (Interview) learned his craft around the Christmas tree from his legendary dad and roasts chestnuts in his own ShapeShifter Lab club. Thomas Morgan (Artist Feature) looks elfin and his playing is indeed magical, bringing good cheer to others. We've got three wise men in the form of Chris White (Encore), the late "Pops" Foster (Lest We Forget) and recently departed Jack Bruce (In Memoriam) and we'll fill up your 12 days of Christmas, eight days of Hanukkah and seven days of Kwanzaa with a special section of bassist-led CD reviews (pg. 16-21).
Enough innuendo. The holidays are about commerce. We have ideas for you in our Gift Guide. And we don't even charge a commission. What could be more holiday-spirited than that?
On the Cover: GEORGE MRAZ
By Russ Musto; photos by Alan Nahigian
Not long after his arrival in the states bassist George Mraz got the call to come to New York to join Dizzy. After a short stint with the iconic trumpeter he was drafted to play bass with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Bassist Rufus Reid remembers first encountering Mraz with that band. "I went to Europe in 1971 with Harold Land and Bobby Hutcherson and I saw George playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio with Louis Hayes and that was mindboggling. I said, 'Who is this guy!'" Mraz would leave Peterson after a couple of years to join the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Mraz says, "I spent about six or seven years with that band and I think for me it was the best schooling, better than the Conservatory and Berklee College because it was immediate results. Mraz is at Bohemian National Hall Dec. 11th and Mezzrow Dec. 26th-27th with Michael Weiss.
Interview: MATTHEW GARRISON
By Terrell Holmes; photo by Fortuna Sung
Matthew Garrison has a pedigree of diversity and innovation. Born Jun. 2nd, 1970, he is the son of John Coltrane bassist Jimmy Garrison and moved to Italy with his mom after his father's passing. He moved back to the U.S. in the '80s, where he lived with his godfather, drummer Jack DeJohnette. He went to Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, ultimately choosing the electric bass over the acoustic. His eponymous debut CD in 2000, according to Bass Player magazine, "raised the bar" for electric bass players. Since 2012 he's run the ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn with Fortuna Sung ("ShapeShifter" is the title of a Garrison album), a hotbed of musical innovation. Garrison is at ShapeShifter Lab Dec. 6th with Dave Fiuczynski's Planet MicroJam featuring Jack DeJohnette.
Artist Feature: THOMAS MORGAN
By Ken Waxman; photo by Peter Gannushkin
Back in New York for a few days after a couple of months touring overseas with pianist Craig Taborn's trio and Danish guitarist Jakob Bro's multimedia quintet, within the week bassist Thomas Morgan was off across the Atlantic for most of a month to take the bass spot in two different working bands: drummer Jim Black's trio and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's quartet. Constant touring is just part of life for Morgan, 33, who has been one of the city's busiest bassists almost since arriving here from California 15 years ago.
Encore: CHRIS WHITE
By George Kanzler
White has played as a jazz educator since earning a degree at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) in the late '60s. But before that career got off the ground, White was already a prominent bassist on the jazz scene.
Lest We Forget: "POPS" FOSTER
By Alex Henderson
George "Pops" Foster was among the most important acoustic bassists to emerge during the early decades of New Orleans jazz. Foster played some other instruments as well, including tuba, trumpet and cello (which was his earliest instrument), but he is best remembered for the slapping technique that he perfected.
Record Label Spotlight: STUNT
By Mark Keresman
Stunt Records, an affiliate of Denmark's Sundance label, gives a prominent dais for Danish, American and assorted European jazz musicians. Artists performing this month include Eliane Elias at Birdland Dec. 2nd-6th; George Garzone at Smalls Dec. 3rd with Melissa Aldana, Tagine Dec. 5th and Nublu Dec. 6th as part of the Nublu Jazz Festival; Kenny Werner at Jazz at Kitano Dec. 5th-6th; and Michael Blake at Nublu Dec. 5th as part of the Nublu Jazz Festival.
Special Feature: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
Gift Suggestions for your jazz loved ones: Holiday Music; Books, Boxed Sets; DVDs; Novelty Items.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Lauren Falls -- The Quiet Fight s/r (The Jazz Gallery)
Juini Booth/Philipp Quehenberger/Didi Kern -- Who's That Rock is Hell (Nublu)
Ernst Glerum/Uri Caine -- Sentimental Mood Favorite (SubCulture; The Stone)
Urbana -- Awayland Infrequent Seams
Colonic Youth -- Fountain of Youth Infrequent Seams (Trans Pecos)
James Ilgenfritz -- Floorplan I Infrequent Seams (Spectrum; The Firehouse Space; Ze Couch; JACK; Brooklyn Conservatory of Music; Trans Pecos)
Greg Cohen -- Golden State Relative Pitch
Philip Catherine/Martin Wind -- New Folks ACT (Smalls)
Jaco Pastorius -- Modern American Music...Period! The Criteria Sessions Omnivore
Dominic Lash -- Opabinia Babel
John Edwards/Mark Sanders/John Tilbury -- A Field Perpetually At The Edge Of Disorder Fataka
Barry Guy New Orchestra -- Amphi, Radio Rondo Intakt
Arild Andersen -- Mira ECM
Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Laswell -- The Stone: Akashic Meditation MOD Technologies/Incunabula
Ark Ovrutski -- 44:33 ZoHo (Fat Cat; Zinc Bar)
Levin Brothers -- Eponymous Lazy Bones Recordings
Anders Jormin/Christian Jormin -- Provenance Footprint
Eddie Gomez/Carsten Dahl -- Live at Montmartre Storyville
John Menegon -- I Remember You Inner Circle (ShapeShifter Lab)
Miroslav Vitous -- Eponymous ECM
Peter Kowald/Daunik Lazro/Annick Nozati -- Instants Chavirés Fou
Jason Roebke -- High/Red/Center Delmark
Brian Lynch/Emmet Cohen -- Questioned Answer Hollistic Music Works (Dizzy's Club)
Michael Dease -- Relentless Posi-Tone
Ulysses Owens Jr. -- Onward and Upward D Clef (Smalls; Village Vanguard; Bar Next Door)
Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash -- Duologue MCG Jazz (Village Vanguard; Smoke; Jazz at Kitano)
Elias Stemeseder/Devin Gray/Anna Webber -- Jagged Spheres s/r (Seeds)
Anna Webber -- Simple Skirl (Seeds)
Larry Ochs/Don Robinson -- The Throne Not Two (The Firehouse Space)
East-West Collective -- Humeurs Rogue Art
Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs -- Spectral Aerophonic (The Firehouse Space)
Scott Wendholt/Adam Kolker Quartet -- Andthem Fresh Sound-New Talent (Smalls)
Stéphane Spira -- In Between Jazzmax (Somethin' Jazz Club; The Cell Theatre)
Tyshawn Sorey -- Alloy Pi (Roulette)
Steve Cardenas -- Melody in a Dream Sunnyside (The Fifth Estate; Roulette; WhyNot Bistro)
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood -- Juice Indirecto (Terminal 5)