Oteil Burbridge: Making Peace

Phil DiPietro By

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AAJ: What about how you'd classify the music? I think there is a powerful southern-ness that runs through the compositions.

OB: I HOPE that there is a southern quality to it. I'm not from the south but most of my favorite music is. Southern music, (at least the older stuff) has a humble, earthy vibe that is unique. I hope that even a little of that comes out in my music. I don't know how to classify it though.

AAJ: The live sets are such a great, organic expansion of the tunes on the cd. I don't know if its just the way you play together or it comes out of the jamband ethos, but the way the improvisations evolve for all the bandmembers-you know, that kind of relaxed, "take your time, have another chorus"-really makes the live experience. It never devolves into , for lack of a better term, some of the jamband noodling that characterizes some of these other bands. It just gets more burning as it gets handed around to Mark, Kebbi, Jason or Kofi, and yourself.

OB: First off, I think that it's a mistake to attribute the origin of the "jam" to rock and roll. The ORIGINAL "jambands," The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band were influenced by JAZZ to start doing long jams. I think that the more background that you have in Jazz, the less likely your jams will devolve into boring noodling. It's called IMPROVISATION !

AAJ: Point most duly noted, and most heartily agreed ! Have you thought about just releasing a live one with the Peacemakers?

OB: No not yet, but eventually yes. I need to have the same lineup for an extended period of time to do that.

AAJ: Would you rather be doing the Peacemakers with Kofi, or do you even think in those terms?

OB: I'd always rather play with Kofi than without, but I've been really blessed to find Jason Crosby who plays keys and violin. He's got a great album that I played on called" Out Of The Box."

OB: The Allmans only work six months a year so I still have half of the year to do what I want.

AAJ: Give us a look at your composing process. Do the tunes come to you off the page, out of your head, or evolve from jams?

OB: They usually start with the drums. I'm originally a drummer. I've got a drum set, a keyboard and a couple of guitars so I'll start on any one of those depending on the mood I'm in.

AAJ: Why does the Soulive style speak to you so powerfully? For people that haven't seen your gigs with them, you're more of a co-soloist, playing some basslines.

OB: CAUSE THEY'RE SO DAMN FUNKY!!!! I love them like I love cornbread man! The MOST IMPORTANT thing with any band is CHEMISTRY. AND LORD HAVE THEY GOT IT!!!!!

AAJ: You're a bassist that solos on the same level as the best hard-bop guitarists, ever. Plus you scat at will, like very few players ever have. Benson is the only one that comes to mind. I notice cats like Rosenwinkel and Charlie Hunter are scatting a bit lately, but they have nowhere near the powerful richness of your voice. Even when you go high, you could bowl someone over in the front row!

OB: Well I appreciate that, but I don't think that I'm anywhere near as good as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow etc.

AAJ: How did you develop your jazz guitar type chops?

OB: I got what I have from hearing the players I mentioned growing up in my house. My dad is a jazz fanatic. I never got as heavy into the standards, like those guys did, though. I was into funk, and fusion and then later on blues and bluegrass. But I had that background in jazz and Latin music.

AAJ: Who influences or informs your playing as a soloist? As a bassist?

OB: Most of all Kofi, but then I would say Elvin Jones, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Allan Holdsworth, Jaco Pastorious and ten thousand others.

AAJ: How do you achieve that sound on bass, that ability to cut through even in jazz guitar trio sort of, second guitarist?

OB: That is because of the engineering genius of Modulus Guitars!

AAJ: Ever thought about doing duets with yourself on a disc? I think you could do a one man Herb Ellis and Joe Pass kind of thing. Plus, you can play very percussively.

OB: I'm actually planning on playing everything on one or two cuts on my next album-bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards.

AAJ: Tell us about some of the extended percussion things you do with the KYDD bass. I mean, you were even "playing" the stand it rests on! That was a great element of last year's Peacemakers gigs.

OB: That's another one of those things that I'm able to do because of the wonderful design of that instrument. Bruce Kaminsky is simply a genius.

AAJ: You've done a few collaborative things with Victor Wooten. Are there any other low-enders you'd like to record with?

OB: Victor is the most revolutionary bassist to come down the pike in 30 years man! I'd also love to do something with Gary Willis and Mike Pope. I think that those are the two best cats out there right now. Talk about having your jazz standards down! whew!!!

AAJ: Speaking of Victah..your stars seem somewhat attached to one another's, which is fitting . Tell our readers about your special connection with Vic and his savant-like brother, Regi.

OB: Well, Victor and I met through a phenomenal jazz drummer named Billy Drummond. We were both about 19. All the Wooten brothers thoroughly blew my mind, as they still do. Victor has created a totally new technique. Even Jaco played using a totally conventional technique. It was his style that was so different. With Victor, it's his style AND his technique. He is one of the modern wonders of the world. He's like the pyramids!

AAJ: One more Victor question. He's said on more than one occasion that YOU are the greatest bassist on the planet. When asked why he says that " I would like to be able to HEAR music like Oteil does." I'd like to ask HIM to expand on that, but since I've got YOU here, I'll ask you to. Can you venture or specify as to exactly what he means? Because if you think about it while listening to your playing, answers reveal themselves. The stuff you do with pentatonics, the incredibly rich and kind of HUGE sound you get with the chords , the single note stuff sort of getting outer and outer over the vamps, only to come back to the consonant sounds again...?

OB: I don't have the most chops and I certainly am not the most well-versed in jazz standards, which I do feel is the highest peak to reach for. I respect jazz players the most as far as the amount of discipline that's required to play that music. However, I think that God put us all here to do different things. If I was really supposed to be the best jazz player I would have no choice but to go that route. I am lazy but not when it comes to something that I have a burning desire to do. I'm jealous of guys like Jaco, Gary Willis and Mike Pope but not enough to pursue that direction, so I had to check out my motivation. What I've found is that there is a sound in my head that requires a knowledge of playing changes but in a more funk type of setting. Or any groove for that matter. I love odd-time stuff and Latin grooves too. So, I chase that sound that I hear in my head. That's where my strength is. It's more about that sound than it is about the bass.
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