's Push Push (Atlantic, 1971), Allman's first and only jazz sessions, and the last full album he recorded prior to his death on October 29, 1971. Jemmott was also there on December 13, 1968, when guitarist Mike Bloomfield called another six-stringer, an unknown Johnny Winter
, the Queen of Soul herself, when she conquered San Francisco's hippie community at the Fillmore West in March of 1971. The album, drawn from this series of concerts (with a surprise appearance by singer Ray Charles
on the instructional video Modern Electric Bass (1985). Even beyond its instructional value, because it was done so close to Pastorius' death on September 21, 1987, it provides an invaluable insight into this extraordinary musician and composer. Pastorius had this to say about Jerry Jemmott: "He was my idol. That stuttering kind of bass line, bouncing all around the beat but keeping it right in the groovewell, they don't call Jerry the Groovemaster for nothing. He's the best."
In this extensive interview Jerry Jemmott speaks about all this, as well as his wide ranging session work for Atlantic Records, and his current gig with blues/rock legend Gregg Allman
All About Jazz: I want to ask first about the sessions with B.B. King for "The Thrill is Gone." When you guys finished and heard the playback, was it just another song that day, or did you have the feeling that this could become something momentous?
Jerry Jemmott: You have to look at it from our perspective. We came together to revolutionize his music, so it was with great intent that we set forth. We were thinking in terms of taking things apart and reconstructing the music so to speak. But it happened naturally through the selection of the people involved, starting with the contractor, Herb Lovelle. Earlier in the '60s he had worked with the same producer for Bob Dylan
That's part of the reason you know Bob Dylan today, because of Herb and his partner, whose name escapes me right now, but they had a reputation around New York for being able to turn peoples' music around. So, for that reason, they called him to do the B.B. King sessions. He played the drums, Paul Harris was on keyboards, and Al Kooper
was thereso we knew we were there for a reason. They had about 20 minutes of a live party album, but it wasn't enough for a full album, so they had the idea of coming into the studio.
In the studio you can construct things and make a memorable recording. So if you do something, you're thinking, let's make this the definitive version of the song. That's always my approach when I go into the studio. As it turned out, later I learned from B.B. that he'd been working on "The Thrill is Gone" going back six years prior to this session. He'd performed it live a few times, but he could never quite get it the way he wanted it.
He was comfortable letting us do our thing because the previous album had been successful and the song "Why I Sing the Blues" had gotten a lot of air play, so he was happy with that. So the next time we came together in the studio he brought in "The Thrill is Gone" and said, "Let's see what we can do with this."
It was Herb's idea to put strings on it.
AAJ: Sometimes those string things can really transform a song. Like James Brown
's idea, and Bert de Coteaux did the arrangement after the fact. Bert is great.
AAJ: Oh man, those cellos are wild.
JJ: Yeah, what they would do in those days is pick up the rhythm parts and duplicate and amplify them. Then they would take the rhythm section down in the mix and you would hear the strings.
AAJ: It's so cool, the way he did it, it's like a spontaneous dialog between you and the cellos.
JJ: Bert was phenomenal, he was able to pick up on that, and on the lines that Hugh McCracken was playing. That's their technique, it's called sweetening. Sometimes it's accentuating or it can be a call and response.
JJ: I haven't seen him recently, but I started going out to see him in the 1980s because I hadn't seen him since the '60s. It had been almost a 15 year gap from the time that we recorded "The Thrill is Gone," and he was so warm and affectionate when he greeted me. I was embarrassed because of all the praise and appreciation he showered on me for my work when he introduced me to the musicians in his bandI think that was in Newark, New Jersey.
I've seen him a few times after that, I've kept up with him untilit was 19...no 2000, [laughing] I feel like Champion Jack Dupree