Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Happy Friday! You made it to the end of the week! Gosh, it sure does feel good, doesn’t it? And the cherry on top is that we have the first installment in a brand-new Feature Friday Q&A series! This time, we’re interviewing the musician, composer, and painter Gerald Cannon.

Jazz bassist Gerald Cannon has performed all over the world with Roy Hargrove’s band, made his debut in the New York City visual art world, and is currently an instructor at the Julliard School and Oberlin College and Conservatory.  

But before all of those accomplishments, he was just a boy growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. Read the interview to learn more about his formative years.

JK: I read online that your initial inspiration was your father Benjamin, who was a guitarist, and bought you your first bass. So, I’m guessing that music was a big part of your household growing up?

GC: Oh yeah, constantly. My father had a gospel quartet when I was a kid—I mean he always had one as far back as I can remember. So, there was always music in our house. We used to rehearse at our house on Wednesday evenings. There were always guitars around the house, and I was never supposed to touch his guitars, but I did every time he left the house. He called me one day, and I though, uh oh, I’m in trouble, and if I hadn’t been able to play anything, I would’ve been in trouble! But I figured out a few notes—actually a few notes that my uncle sang in my father’s gospel quartet. I just played something nice that he sang—he sang bass. So, then my father took me immediately to a music store and bought me my first electric bass. I was nine years old then.

JK: Did you play any instruments before the electric base?

GC: No. Just electric bass.

JK: So, at age 9, did you know that was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?

GC: Yeah, I kinda did. After that I pretty much spent all my free time on it. I was just really happy to have something that I could call my own. My brother was an actor and, so when I started taking lessons—I was about 9 or 10—my brother started taking voice and acting lessons.

And my mother and father used to dance all the time. I guess that before I was born, they used to win awards for their dancing abilities. And my grandmother was a great gospel pianist in the South. So, it’s kind of always been there.

JK: Was your mother also a musician?

GC: No, she wasn’t. She was just a housewife, but she loved music and could dance. Her and my father used to dance in our living room to Nat King Cole and some records and stuff.

JK: What was your most beloved song during your childhood?

GC: Oh, that’s an interesting question cause, like I said, we listened to music a lot. Let’s see—it would be this record my dad used to play all the time. It’s a Kay Burrell record called Midnight Blue. And I remember hearing “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” all the time when I was a kid. I mean we just had records—I don’t know; I don’t really have a special song. We listened to music all the time in our house. It’s kind of hard to think of just one. It was all good music too—we listened to lots of jazz; my dad played lots of gospel records.

JK: What was the first song that you learned on the electric bass?

GC: Hmm. Probably The Old Rugged Cross. If I remember correctly. That was 50 years ago.

Tune in next time to learn more about Gerald Cannon. And in the meantime, you can listen to him play in the WJ3 All-Stars’ newest album, My Ship.

Ron Carter: Mr. 2,221…and Counting

If you love jazz, but you don’t know who Ron Carter is, you really don’t love jazz.

Why do we say that?

Because Ron Carter is one of the most prolific, innovative and influential bassists in jazz history.
He’s also played with a number of the greats. From Lena Horne to B.B. King, Miles Davis to even A Tribe Called Quest, Mr. Carter’s talent has transcended a variety of genres.

Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan on May 4, 1937. He started playing cello at age ten, and later switched to the double bass. He went on to play during his time at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and the Manhattan School of Music in the Big Apple.

His professional career in music started with gigs playing bass for Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton. Carter hit the big time in 1963 when he became a member of the classic and acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet. In it, he played alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. He played with the group until 1968. During his time, he recorded two albums with them—Seven Steps to Heaven in 1963 and E.S.P. in 1965.

After his quartet time, Carter went on to forge a number of musical partnerships and was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. He also was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings playing with Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver and many others.

In a career which spans more than 50 years, Carter has more than 2,221 albums to his credit. He’s the most recorded jazz bassist history and was recognized for it by The Guinness Book of World Records in 2016. At 81, Carter is still teaching and performing.

So far as his style, it’s been described as such.

“What makes Carter so unique is the fact that describing his style is more comparable to describing the entire jazz genre—it includes a grandiose and diverse spectrum of sophisticated music that has evolved over the past several decades. Carter has been at the forefront of various jazz movements, from bebop to bossa nova, straight-ahead to experimental. If that weren’t enough, he has thrived in virtually every form of ensemble playing from conservation-driven duos to quartets to big bands. He has played the bass lines that all students of jazz have to learn and does so with impeccable tone, technique, and temperament.”

Ryan Madora

Bass Players to Know: Ron Carter, notreble.com

Sept. 15, 2017

Night is Alive’s own Donald Vega performs on piano with Carter’s Golden Striker Trio.

This just goes to show the caliber of the great talent that we work with. In a nutshell, we represent legends who have been inspired, mentored and celebrated by jazz greats, and we’d love to share their unique sounds with you—and the world.

Learn more about what we do and who we represent.