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Take Five with Pete Coco

Pete Coco By

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About Pete Coco

A mainstay on the New York jazz scene, bassist Pete Coco recently released his debut album as a leader, Lined with a Groove, featuring drummer Matt Wilson and pianist Sullivan Fortner. The LP is an homage to his mentors and influences, with fresh arrangements of tunes by bassists including Ron Carter, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Charlie Haden, Paul Chambers and more.

Pete has performed with many jazz greats including Matt Wilson, Jane Monheit, Bucky Pizzarelli, Zach Brock, Melissa Aldana, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Bruce Forman, Joel Weiskopf, Frank Vignola, Chuck Redd, and Warren Vache, among others.

Pete holds a DMA in Classical Performance from Stony Brook University and a Masters in Jazz Studies from SUNY Purchase College. He is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University on Long Island, where he teaches bass lessons, lectures on American music, and directs the chamber music program. He is also director of the Music Academy of Garden City, a music school he founded in 2006, and an avid photographer who catalogs his fellow musicians both in the studio and live in concert.

Instrument(s):

Acoustic and electric bass. I am extremely blessed to play on a German bass circa 1850 which previously belonged to Milt Hinton. It is the "Chicago Bass" which was his first instrument and used extensively throughout his career. I also play on a Seth Kimmel bass which was built to my specifications in 2015.

Teachers and/or influences?

My biggest influence is Ray Brown. When it comes to time, tone, and taste—I think he has had the greatest impact on me as a bassist and band leader. Ray's trio records are some of the best trio records, hands down. Each one is an education on how a bassist should run a band. Besides Ray, my current teacher Ron Carter has had the deepest effect on me. Studying with Ron has revolutionized my approach to music, and how I think about the role of the bass in my hands and in the band. Ron is also one of the most nurturing and kind souls I have encountered, and an example not only as a musician but as a person. Outside of the low end, Matt Wilson has been a mentor to me for many years, and is a constant encouragement to me. Living in New York, I have also had the great fortune to study with some of the best jazz and classical bassists in the world, including Todd Coolman, Doug Weiss, Rufus Reid, Harvie S, Kurt Muroki, and Carlos Castillo. Most important in my development was my first jazz bass teacher, Bob Bowen, who passed tragically and far too early.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

...I heard Paul Chambers walking bass line on "If I Were A Bell!"

Your sound and approach to music.

I have always regarded sound, meaning tone, as paramount. To paraphrase Ray Brown, our most important job as bassists is "not to play fast or play solos, but to get a good sound." Practically speaking, this means developing a warm, round tone with excellent intonation and sustain, and with a swinging beat. This is what the rest of the musicians want from the bassist, and I think it is even more crucial when working with a singer. My tone as the bassist should complement the sound of the human voice, not distract or take away from it.

Your teaching approach

My teaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: Go practice! Although I am being facetious, there is no substitute for putting in the hours. When I was younger, I thought that people were either talented or not, and there was nothing one could do about it. It took me many years of struggling in the practice room to develop the foresight to realize that I had accomplished every musical task I set my mind to, as long as I was willing to put in the work. One day it dawned on me that I had become a pretty darn good bassist, and early on I didn't think I had the talent to excel in jazz or at the double bass. It is sad that our society places such an emphasis on talent over hard work -so I try to instill this in all my students from their first lesson on.

Your dream band

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