Take Five With Rico Belled

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Meet Rico Belled:

Born and raised in Holland, Rico Belled is best known as the Grammy-nominated bassist for The Rippingtons. Now based in Los Angeles, CA, he's worked with artists in many genres, ranging from Liza Minnelli to Eddie Money, Eric Marienthal to The Dan Band. Piano being his first instrument, Rico is also an accomplished guitarist and producer, releasing his first solo record entitled The Pursuit Of Comfort in 2010. A prolific composer, his music has found its way to records and TV all over the world.


Bass, keys, guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?

Early influences are Oscar Peterson, David Sanborn, Prince, Marcus Miller, and James Brown. Later on I got heavily into Weather Report and Afro-Cuban music. Getting into pop and rock in my late twenties, I started exploring the art of songwriting through, of course, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd.

Mostly self-taught, I did graduate from BIT in Hollywood, but teachers I really spent time with were actually guitarists; Scott Henderson is a genius and Allen Hinds helped me a lot.

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

My studies in Electrical Engineering at the TU Delft threatened to suck all the life out of me. I started playing early on, and my father is a musician, but it didn't seem a real option as far as employment goes. Of course, moving to the States to see how it's really done was the best decision of my life.

Your sound and approach to music:

I try to convey as much feeling as possible, to make the music feel as good as possible. It's important to tell a story, not just play a bunch of notes in a row. I love so many different styles, but there's gotta be a groove. I always try to find meaning in everything I play, even when it might not be my favorite tune to play.

Your teaching approach:

Teaching is an interesting subject. Most music teachers don't get it in my seldom to be humble opinion. All they show students is scales and techniques, which are quite dangerous actually. I always draw an analogy with learning to speak: of course when you're starting out, you have to learn the basic building blocks of the language, the sounds of the letters for instance. But after you learn them, you never practice them in an isolated way anymore. Music is the same for me: once you have some skill on your instrument, it's important to start working on actual music, actual songs—not scales. You can analyze, but there always has to be the context of meaningful music.

Your dream band:

There are so many fantastic artists I would love to play with; John Scofield comes to mind, Omar Hakim, Joshua Redman, Chick Corea. That sounds like a decent band!

Favorite venue:

The Hollywood Bowl meant the most to me. After years of living in LA I got to do the JVC Jazz Festival with Keiko Matsui, to a sold-out house, and it was just amazing. For weeks after I would run into people I knew who I didn't even know where actually there. The place is run so well, the setting is gorgeous, the sounds of the crowd coming at me was unbelievable.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

That has to be Eyewitness, which I did with Jeff Robinson. We did it in Dave Karasony's garage, produced by the amazing Rodney Lee. I love the songs; meaningful lyrics, no metronomes—just real grooves, real music.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Oscar Peterson, Night Train.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I always try to make the music feel good. I do my homework, so I'm not guessing what's coming up next, and try to groove as hard as I can.

Did you know...

I play the trombone.

CDs you are listening to now:

Bob Moses, Time Stood Still (Gramavision);

Oscar Peterson, Night Train;

Weather Report, Heavy Weather.

Desert Island picks:

Oscar Peterson, Night Train;

Weather Report, Heavy Weather;

Afro Cuban Allstars,Afro Cuban Allstars;

James Brown.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

It's not good, but that's the musicians' fault, I'm afraid. It seems a lot of feeling is missing from jazz these days, and audiences have punished us for it.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

I think it's important to bring a little fun and playfulness back to the genre. Jazz is about experimentation and freedom and as people get spoon fed more and more perfect and overproduced music, I have a feeling they will get more interested in the unpredictability of jazz.

What is in the near future?

Currently I'm busy promoting my new album. It really is a labor of love and I would love nothing more than to take this show on the road. I've connected with so many great musicians here and I'm ready.

Of course, I love playing with other folks too, and will be touring with the Rippingtons this year. We're doing a new album this summer and I'm working on some great music with some other people too.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Rocket Scientist!

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Rico Belled.

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