"Bumper-sticker" jazz? Sort of...
Sacred Graffiti is an eclectic yet virtuoso offering from Bay area bassist Edo Castro in which inspiration comes from daily emotive impressions including a bumper-sticker, scribbles on a wall, signs of various purpose and from these static and fixed messages, an evocative and emotive pulse is brought forth.
With all but one tune written and composed by Castro and with guests including Michael Manring, Mark Isham and Steve Erquiaga there is no questioning musical credibility and this is established from the beginning.
"A Thread Of Blue" opens with vinyl static and midi bass washes before effortlessly flowing into an urban Latin feel with Erquiaga laying down a slightly whimsical solo which is but a taste of things to come. "57th Latitude" has Castro and veteran bassist Michael Manring playing with a sense of musical cohesion that is stunning among two such gifted artists. The title track is the haunting "Sacred Graffiti" featuring Mark Isham on trumpet, a dark and at times brooding melody that is not to be dismissed easily. "Bent Blues" may showcase the lyrical virtuosity of Castro as well as any piece on Sacred Graffiti.
Well paced, thoughtful and a stellar performance that could easily flip to the more self indulgent. Instead, Sacred Graffiti is a wonderfully organic, slightly eclectic but incredibly artistic vision from a bass player that is deserving of far wider recognition. From a Latin flair to something reminiscent of later Windham Hill, Castro is making his unique musical voice heard in an otherwise commercial myriad of soulless clutter.
Perfect pacing, intriguing compositions and a stellar sound have both Edo Castro and Passion Star Records scoring big here! If this release slipped past you then take notice!
Tracks: A Thread Of Blue; The Gathering; 57th Latitude; Sneaky Pete; When The Stars Fell On You; Drifting Across The Night Sky; A Travel Lodge Moment; All In; Bent Blues; As The Cherry Blossoms Fall; ESP; No Chance In Sight; Evidence; Left Of Center; Sacred Graffiti; A Thread Of Blue (Fine).
Personnel: Al Caldwell; Michael Manring; David Friesen; Percy Jones; Mark Isham; Steve Erquiaga; Richard Gee; Chris Stafford; Mark Bernfield; Jonathan Moe; Alex Aspinall; Erik Lindquist; Dan Zinn; Chris Cardone; Ray Cooper; Dray Prayor; Savannah Jo Lack.
South African Bass Fans
Having greatly enjoyed this multiple-stringed bass monster’s previous release, Phoenix, I thoroughly looked forward to listening to this latest offering, Sacred Graffiti. I’m happy to report that I’m not disappointed: quite the contrary! The range of styles and influences on this disc is quite astonishing, as is the fact that Edo Castro retains his individual and trademark tasteful approach throughout. A rare achievement!
The CD begins with vinyl static and midi-bass washes (‘A thread of blue Part 1’), before Dan Zinn’s sax kicks off the latinesque ‘The gathering’, anchored by Castro’s bass, Greg Sankovich’s keys and Alex Aspinall’s drums. Steve Erquiaga turns in a playful electric guitar solo (I’d only ever heard him on acoustic before), and Zinn hits some excitingly angular harmonized phrases towards the end of the tune.
‘57th latitude’ comprises the meeting of those two masters of tasteful fretless, Castro and Michael Manring. EC is responsible for the melody and the loops, Manring solos – spellbinding, this collaboration! ‘Sneaky Pete’ sounds like a refreshing update of Booker T. & The MGs (EC and drummer Mark Bernfield being joined by guitarist Richard Gee and midi-axe player Chris Stafford), replete with an exhilarating bass solo.
‘When the stars fell on you’ is all Castro, in an introspective (even plaintive) frame of mind, with only Ray Cooper supplying keyboard washes and colors. A similarly pastoral atmosphere (albeit suffused with quiet joy) characterizes ‘Drifting across the night sky’, with sparse contributions by percussionist Jonathan Moe and violinist Savannah Jo Lack. Reference: perhaps Windham Hill’s Montreux?
‘A travel lodge moment’ teams EC with electric upright maestro David Friesen, again with fine, sympathetic perc accompaniment by Moe. ‘All in’ is an all-too-brief driver, featuring Castro on midi bass and Dray Pryor’s electronic drums. ‘Bent Blues’ reunites the trio of Castro, Sankovich and Aspinall, with the addition of guitarist Erik Lindquist: this is blues-derived swing, great fun.
On ‘As the cherry blossoms fall’, EC appears to be paying homage to (at least part of) his heritage: an Eno-esque pentatonic reflection. ‘ESP’ is a brief vignette that has EC teaming up again with the violinist. ‘No change in sight’ is a bass-heavy tour de force, featuring Al Caldwell on bass, perc, synth and vocals: a riveting performance by the two bass players. ‘Evidence’ offers the next highlight, in the form of Castro’s collaboration with cult bassist Percy Jones on trademark fretless bass and slide harmonics. On ‘Left of center’, the quartet of track 9 offers a gentle, albeit LOC ballad. Lindquist’s guitar work is exquisite, as is EC’s fretless solo.
The title track could be a tribute to the Marcus Miller/ Miles Davis collaboration. With Mark Isham on trumpet, this could be the soundtrack for an as yet unmade film: a firm favorite; before Castro rides things out, bookending this gorgeous album with ‘A thread of blue Part 2’.
Not a single weak track – this is a sterling achievement!
-Kai Horsthemke/ December 2010
Jazz Improv Magazine
To describe the music on Edo Castroâ€™s latest release, Phoenix, is one of the hardest challenges Iâ€™ve faced as a jazz CD reviewer. Thatâ€™s not to make a judgment on the quality of the music. Itâ€™s not to say itâ€™s the best or the worst jazz Iâ€™ve heard (I try to allow the reader/listener to make those kinds of judgments). It is simply to say that this music defies description perhaps more than any other CD I have reviewed. This being a magazine, however (where only written descriptions will do). I will try my best.
Edo Castro is undoubtedly a unique musician. His music has a style thatâ€™s unquestionably his own. He is a bassist unlike any Iâ€™ve heard. His unique sound comes mainly from two areas.
First, is the variety of sounds he creates. He does this largely through the use of electronics & loops. He plays a variety of electric basses and blends synth sounds and programming to create a wide variety of â€œsonic texturesâ€. The second aspect of Castroâ€™s signature sound is of course his musicality. His use of the bass as a melodic instrument and as a leading instrument, is unique and intriguing. He certainly has the ability as a composer to adequately and appropriately spotlight his skills on the bass, and he has the chops as an instrumentalist to back up this spotlight on an instrument that isnâ€™t accustomed to this role. Finally, he has the foresight as an arranger to create the perfect background cushion for his melodic statements.
Much of the music on Phoenix is original. There are distinct stylistic and/or textural influences on some of the tracks. â€œBlue Asiaâ€, for instance, is set in a Latin-ish 6/8 style with a bass-line reminiscent of Wayne Shorterâ€™s â€œFootprintsâ€. The title track is a feature for George Brooks on soprano sax. Other tunes, like â€œBone Dreamsâ€ and â€œChance of Rainâ€, are purely sound collages. â€œRiseâ€ adds vocals to the mix. Other members of the band contribute original material as well. Guitarist Ralph Towner is featured on his composition â€œBeneath an Evening Skyâ€. Blue features his exotic vertical double flutes on his â€œThe Gift of Blueâ€, parts one and two. A particularly unexpected addition is that of â€œAmazing Graceâ€, which is put in a funky setting and features vocals.
So there it is; Iâ€™ve at least managed to put into words what the general feel and vibe of Phoenix is. At least I hope I have. Iâ€™ve told you about a sound. A sound created by a singular musician (and his chosen band mates). Iâ€™ve told you the sound exists. I can do no more. I can no better describe the sound than describe the feeling of sinking into your bed at the end of a hard day. You have to experience it yourself. If youâ€™re looking for something entirely different, go experience Phoenix.
When I first received Edo Castroâ€™s album â€˜Phoenixâ€™ for review purposes, two things about it set me on guard immediately: first, the image of a 9-string bass on the cover (I mean, who on earth needs these things?) and second, the inclusion of that awful and omnipresent tune, â€˜Amazing Graceâ€™. Well, that was then. â€˜Phoenixâ€™ is a near-completely beautiful, exquisitely crafted album. Castro is much more concerned with mood and texture, not to mention melody, than with extroverted, chops-flashing bravado. Case in point: who would even think of covering Ralph Townerâ€™s breathtaking composition â€˜Beneath an Evening Skyâ€™? Castro does it full justice, with the elegant fretless melody set against a chordal backdrop, rendering the complex time signature of the piece almost unnoticeable. â€˜Bone Dreamsâ€™ adds pedal steel guitar (Rob Powell) and tabla (Debropriyo Sarkar) for texture, and â€˜Song for the Electric Whalesâ€™ is a moving (and sonically accurate!) tribute to these magnificent creatures. The blues-based â€˜Blue Asiaâ€™ features like-minded Mark Egan on fretless 8-string bass, apart from Castro himself. â€˜Chance of Rainâ€™ reprises the ambience of the second selection, and the title track is the only real ensemble piece here: it contains few surprises but is a pleasant track nonetheless. The Native American flutes of Blue constitute the featured instrument on two evocative tracks (indeed, the sole instrument on the 9-minute-plus â€˜â€¦ Part 2â€™; how is that for unselfishness on the part of the bassist?), and â€˜Riseâ€™ is the Methenyesque album closer, with Castro on nimble fretless. So, what about â€˜Amazing Graceâ€™, then? It begins promisingly, with Castro reharmonising this trite tune. But then the voices come in, and everything goes downhill from here. To me (as someone with a profoundly atheistic worldview), the lyrics have always been simple-minded, and while Castroâ€™s changes here should be noted, the vocal acrobatics further propel this piece into the abyss of the eminently skippable, unconnected as it is from the rest of the CD. However, this is the only blemish on an album that is otherwise a veritable gem.
Edo Castro's passion for music in general and the electric bass guitar in specific are undeniable! His latest offering, "Phoenix" was released in 2006, and the rich, textural compositions weave a timeless musical expression! Edo spent many years as a disciplined self-taught bassist before attending Chicago's American Conservatory of Music where he received a Bachelor of Music degree, in 1987. Since returning to his beloved Berkley, CA he has graced dozens of recordings â€“ often with his 7 and 9-string instruments â€“ and he has graced stages with artists such as Ed Thigpen, Fareed Haque, Pete Cosey, and Roy Haynes! ( Please follow the link to the article as it's over 4 pages long! - Thank you Brent-Anthony!!)
A Chat with Edo Castro
by Martin Simpson
Edo, Lisa Star, the Principal of Passion Star Records, recently sent me a package containing your 10 track, second solo effort, Phoenix, which runs for just under 62 minutes. What Iâ€™d like to do is to have a chat to you about this disc.
How long did the project take from conception to final mixing?
I started working on this project as soon as my first CD â€œEdoâ€ was completed. That first CD took 7 years to make. I didnâ€™t want to let another 7 years go by so I wanted to strike while the iron was hot. â€œPhoenixâ€ From start to finish was approximately 1 year. The project almost didnâ€™t make the light of day but with the help of Producer/Engineer Ray Cooper and Lisa Star, the project was resurrected. Thatâ€™s the main reason for the title. Besides I love the name â€œPhoenix.â€
Is Phoenix a Quantum jump forward from your first album?
Is this album a Quantum leap forward? I donâ€™t think so. If anything Phoenix represents ideas that were percolating during those 7 years. Much of the music on Phoenix came about through experimentation using my Conklin Midi bass and various texture building with the use of effects pedals. My first release hinted at this. But more so, Phoenix is perhaps more introspective and quiet in mood. Some people gave me flack for the â€œlack lustreâ€ in the â€œchopsâ€ department. No flashy speedy songs here. Fast speedy playing is something I didnâ€™t go for. Itâ€™s always been about melody, mood and feeling. How does the music make you feel? If you put this music on youâ€™re not about to throw a wild party but it may encourage you to sit quietly and enjoy letting your mind wander or sit with a friend and let it be a soundtrack in the background. I also wanted the listener to forget theyâ€™re hearing a bass player and transition into hearing compositions. As I said before, Iâ€™m a composer who happens to play bass.
I first got to know you through Lee Barker who makes his own Barker Bass, electric fretted upright instrument. I noticed that you didnâ€™t use one of his instruments on the album. Instead, you used various ERBâ€™s made by Conklin (your favourite manufacturer). Could you give us a bit of info about the basses you used on the project?
Lee Barker is a wonderful friend, builder and a visionary. During the making of Phoenix I was focusing on what â€œmy soundâ€ is and how itâ€™s created. Despite my love of Leeâ€™s instruments and sound, the ERB 7 string bass is where I have settled in. I cleared my closet of anything with less than 7 strings and stopped trying to be the â€œall inclusive sounding bassist.â€ To find my voice I had to let go of preconceived notions of what I thought I should be doing as a bassist. I decided that I canâ€™t be everything to everyone by playing acoustic bass, electric upright, etc. Itâ€™s a difficult choice to give up particular avenues of employment when you stop being versatile in your array of bass sounds and focus in on who you are as an artist. I once had a great variety of basses for any occasion. Now my collection is small and quite specific to my needs.
My Conklin basses have been the backbone of this experimentation and self- realization. The Conklin bass on the cover of Phoenix is an 8 string fretless. 8 Strings is about as far as Iâ€™ll go. These basses have a great feel to them and the sound is always remarkable where ever I play or whatever I plug them into. I also used an Aquilina Bertone Deluxe 7 String fretless bass on this album. This bass was built by French luthier Sebastien Aquilina. All my Conklin basses have Kent Armstrong pickups and Bartolini 3 band active EQ. I use custom ordered GHS Contact core super steels on all my basses. Iâ€™ve been using GHS for some 20 years now.
What qualities does the Aquilina have that the Conklins havenâ€™t?
The Aquilina bass has a thinner body and is chambered. The neck is bolt on but composed of quarter-sawn maple that has a jointed tilt headstock. This gives a different tonal quality to the instrument allowing for Subtle nuances in the mid range. Itâ€™s quite nice to play.
Getting back to the album. The sleeve of Phoenix, is very informative and well laid out. I have to admit that although the black and white pic under the tray is interesting, Iâ€™m a little lost as to its significance.
All the photography on both my albums were taken by my wife Sharon Green. It was one of the things that I found attractive about her besides her good looks. (LOL) When we first met she showed me her portfolio and I was smitten. Anyway the bird photo under the tray was something I was attracted to. Itâ€™s like looking at a field of wheat blowing in the wind. Something about that photo just made me stop. It made me feel good. It was either that photo or a photo of me. The birds won.(LOL) I wanted the packaging on Phoenix to be like a visual story where you just looked about while listening. This takes me back to the days when we had â€œVinyl albums.â€ I spent hours looking at the liner notes and pictures while listening to the music. I wanted that! Granted the CD format is harder to read and restrictive space wise but I think Alicia Buelow did a fantastic job on the graphics. As to the significance of this particular photo, It tells a story and causes you to wonder what that moment was. Are the birds landing or are they taking off?
I was very interested in hearing the piece that you did with fellow bassist, Mark Egan â€“ can we expect to hear any other gems from you two guys in the future?
Mark has been a great influence on me particularly in the realm of melodic playing. His horn-like phrasing is beautiful. Not to mention his tone. I slowly became friends with Mark and at some point brought up recording and thatâ€™s how that came about. â€œBlue Asiaâ€ was perfect for us. There are only 2 bassists and a drummer on this track. Iâ€™m playing my Conklin midi bass while Mark played his Pedulla 8 String fretless bass. Will we be working together soon? I canâ€™t say but I can tell you that bassist Michael Manring, David Friesen and Yves Carbonne will be guests on my next CD. (And maybe a few more surprises. Weâ€™ll see.)
From Here, Iâ€™ll allow you to take us through the album, starting with:-
Beneath An Evening Sky
This was written by one of my favourite composer/guitarist Ralph Towner. I first heard the piece from the CD â€œOregon 45th Parallel.â€ A friend of mine gave me a transcription and I learned the chords, (well as close as I could) and melody. It is seemingly simplistic when you first listen to it but it is a study in subtle harmonic shifts and time change. It starts off in 6/4 but goes momentarily into 5/4 then back into 6/4. The wonderful thing is you as a listener donâ€™t hear it nor feel it. The chords are voiced very open and wide. You canâ€™t just play any old lick or string of chops in this piece. It forces you to really belly up to the bar and play some strong melodic content. Anything else would be a disaster. I think I did an exceptional job of not falling into those traps.
This piece is based off a 7/4 pattern I created using harmonics. I wanted to write a composition inspired by a dream I had about skeletons. The dream at first frightened me but then it switched to a shamanistic experience. My interpretation of my dream is that the bones, our bones, held all the energy of our experiences despite the fact that the living tissue was gone. The bones held the mystical energy of our lives. So with all that I tried to create a dreamy experience through this piece. All the textures created were generated through my pedal board effects using long delays, reverb and chorusing. The Tabla was the finishing touch on this piece. It really gave this piece that mystical quality.
The bass melody was inspired by a section in Pat Metheny's CD "The Way Up" found in the beginning of "Part 2" played by bass great Steve Rodby.
Song of The Electric Whales
I created a wonderful textured loop and decided to record it. But then it sat for about a month. Then one night I watched the film â€œThe Whale Riderâ€ and it was during the footage of the whales that gave me the idea, the rest just happened. I knew how to create those â€œwhale-likeâ€ sounds for years and always made them this little joke, but I didnâ€™t know it would become a serious texture for a piece. The loop was slow and undulating giving the sense of being weightless or underwater. It was all there for me to put together.
It's the first song I've ever written. (circa 1979-80) I was still in music school at the time. It all fell together rather quickly. I was taking an Afro-Cuban Percussion Ensemble class when the instructor asked for original compositions to play at the end of the semester for a concert. Despite not having any prior composing skills, I jumped at the chance.
Blue Asia is built around the bass line. The original bass part is far different than the one recorded on Phoenix. The original bass groove was based off a 6/8 African percussion pattern called Naningo. Around 1989-90 I switched the bass line and feel to a Brazilian 6/8 very similar to what Pat Metheny popularized during that period.
The melody was purposefully static to be propelled and float above the percolating bass & percussion textures. The title came about as a statement of the form of the piece and who wrote it. "Blue" for the Minor Blues and "Asia" for the person who composed it: "me." Suffice it to say it does conjure up some wonderful visuals.
I did record a version of Blue Asia in Chicago in 1989-90 with a Band Called "Viewpoint". This band was comprised of Guitar, Vibraphones, Steel Drums, Drums and Bass. It's really beautiful and quite different than the version on "Phoenix." I love both versions.
The composition is wonderful in that it can be played with any variety of instruments and still express the over all quality of the harmony. To have Mark Egan on this session has been a life long dream for me but more so his contribution to this recording is timeless.
Chance of Rain
Ah another one of those things that just happened. In my exploration of sound, I created another loop and recorded it. Then I decided I wanted to play like Tony Levin, imitating the Stick. Then I got my friend Rob, to play the gorgeous pedal Steel. I love his approach to this instrument. I wanted the music to have this feel of something hanging about, like a storm on the horizon. I really love just allowing myself to hear what it is I want to create and go for it. Because there are many times I just struggle with ideas and having them go nowhere. Iâ€™m a firm believer that once youâ€™re given the gift of the idea, you must run with it. As you know artistic creation has more equatorial troughs than great trade winds.
Oh now weâ€™re digging deep. I wrote this during my years in Chicago between 1982 -1990, while learning my trade and finishing up my studies at the music college. I had 3 little unfinished pieces written down on paper and none of them were panning out. So one day while sitting at the piano I had all 3 scores sitting there: The first score was this bit in C Major with the descending melody with chords, the 2nd score had this bit with D minor and a melody and the 3rd score in the key of F had this little nursery rhyme bit. I just laid them out from left to right and played them together ponderously (Iâ€™m not that great a pianist) together. Thatâ€™s how this piece came to life. Separately they were going nowhere but together they fit perfectly to each other. It was originally titled â€œMorning Visitationâ€ but later I renamed it to â€œPhoenixâ€. The piece was resurrected from my past and became the title track for this CD.
The Gift of Blue (Part 1)
The flutist, Blue, is an American Indian. We met at a gig a few years earlier and wanted to someday record together. The Gift of Blue part 1 was a recorded accident. What we trying to do was record Part 2 but during the session, someone outside the Studio had ignited some large fireworks, so if you listen closely at the end of this recording youâ€™ll hear several booms in successive order. They sounded like drums from the heavens. We stopped the recording but I said, â€œletâ€™s keep it. I have an ideaâ€¦â€The chord arpeggio bits was something I was playing while Blue was recording this, so I recorded that later.
I never intended to make another version of Amazing Grace. This was one of those moments where it happened. I created this wonderful looped event but I didnâ€™t have a melody for it. So for weeks I created all kinds of swill but nothing worth keeping. Then one day I started the same loop and the melody for Amazing Grace came out from under my fingers. Thatâ€™s when I said, â€œTHATâ€™S IT.â€ The lyrics came about in the same way. I had been listening to the recording of this arrangement and started humming this melody, then the words to the melody. So I wrote some alternate lyrics to Amazing Grace, taking out the â€œwretchâ€ and giving it a more positive spin. You must admit I donâ€™t think youâ€™ve ever heard an arrangement like this.
The Gift of Blue (Part 2)
Part 2 is the full realization of Blueâ€™s melody that we started to record with Part 1.
I wanted to record a piece you could sing along with and feel good about. I had been playing around with this idea for some time. Thereâ€™s a bit of improvisation in the middle there where I just let things happen. The tapping that I do here is something I had been playing with for some time as well and finally found a home for it. It really does stick in your mind once you hear it. And if you walk away humming a bit of this then Iâ€™ve done my job as a composer.
Have you taken the album out on the road yet â€“ and if so, how many musicians are you using?
I havenâ€™t officially taken it â€œon the roadâ€ but I have been playing bits of the album when I go out and play solo bass shows. This is really fun and challenging to do. This is a topic for another discussion because it addresses a variety of technical hurdles and other artistic challenges. Another interview perhaps?
Thanks very much for your time Edo. Good luck with this beautiful album.
They donâ€™t call it mood music for nothing. Whether my mood is upbeat or downbeat, serious or playful, extroverted or introverted, there are musical choices aplenty to complement, enhance or counteract it.
Edo Castro -- in addition to playing one of the coolest-looking instruments ever built, a fretless eight-string bass â€“ on his sophomore solo release Phoenix delivers what I can only describe as mood music. It has flavorings of instrumental jazz, world music and New Age, but, perhaps surprisingly for someone whose primary instrument is generally thought of as a rhythm anchor, the emphasis is on sonic textures rather than beats or structures.
Early tracks â€œBeneath An Evening Sky,â€ â€œBone Dreamsâ€ and â€œSong Of The Electric Whalesâ€ have a contemplative, unrushed, elegant feel, becoming almost hypnotic in places. The synth textures, percussion and Debopriyo Sarkarâ€™s tabla on â€œBone Dreamsâ€ are especially evocative.
â€œBlue Asiaâ€ has greater structure, lending it more of straight jazz feel, but it could hardly be called mainstream when itâ€™s built around a duet between two bass players, Castro and guest Mark Egan. This tasty cut also features intricate percussion work from Paul Van Wageningen and Ian Dogole, as well as production crisp enough to remind of Steely Dan.
â€œChance Of Rainâ€ and â€œThe Gift Of Blue (Parts 1 & 2)â€ carry forward the earlier contemplative mood and pace, though â€œChanceâ€ has a particularly steady-thrumming bass line that adds firmness and tension. In between, the title track returns to straight jazz, with a stuttering rhythm section underpinning some terrific sax work from George Brooks, complemented nicely by Lorn Leberâ€™s electric guitar and Tommy Keseckerâ€™s vibes.
Castro is a San Francisco Bay Area musician who has played with numerous local luminaries, including Jill Knight. Phoenix is his second solo outing and a great pickup if youâ€™re either in a mellow mood or looking to instill one. While this is music you could work or play to, itâ€™s most suited to simple contemplation, and isnâ€™t that something we could all use a little more of in our lives?
Edo Castro's Phoenix:
Very expressive - from ethereal to grooving - great writing and playing!
The best place to start for me is that this CD is by a bass player but you wouldn't know it. Edo is first and foremost a composer here and the album is a complete statement from beginning to end. The bass playing is top notch and the sounds he draws from his many stringed electrics range from ethereal to deep and in the pocket. But Edo's respect for the music shines through so beautifully here as it often doesn't when a bassist gets the opportunity to "step out". There's no showing off here as the compositions and textures are pre-eminent. I especially like how Edo lets the other musicians express themselves in a very un-selfish way. In fact, expression is what this CD is all about.
I love the CD. I enjoyed your expression and compositions.
Thanks for asking me to participate .
20th Century Guitar Magazine
"Edo's new CD is excellent...very relaxing stuff, great late night listening..." - 20th Century Guitar
20th Century Guitar Nov 2006
Incorporating Jazz, fusion, rock, funk and New Age sounds, Phoenix is the best CD yet from SF based Edo, bass ace extraordinare. Edo's forte is his showmanship on Conklin 7 fretted and 8 fretless basses, Conklin 6 midi bass and bass loops. On his 2006 CD, "Phoenix" Edo is supported by a
range of excellent players including former Pat Metheny bass great Mark Egan, performing here on 8 string fretless. Edo's music is haunting and makes for a sublime ambient musical experience. Influences such as mid 80's Pat Metheny Group and Jaco Pastorius can be heard and there's even a
cover of "Beneath an Evening Sky" written by Ralph Towner.
Bass Inside Magazine
Interview by Warren Murchie
-Bass Insider Magazine
Still Waters Run deep
Soon to be releasing his second solo CD, Edo Castro has already proven to all concerned that he is a master bass player and a very mature composer of both elegant and soulful tunes. As he is in the process of gearing up the â€˜machineryâ€™ so to speak, for this second release, we wanted to know what he would be doing with this opportunity to reach even farther afield and find new appreciation for his music. A thoughtful and intelligent man and not afraid to put his musical heart on the line, he measures each thing he says to find just that â€˜rightâ€™ meaning in this insightful interview. It must be said that though he comes across as a gentle person, one can soon sense the personal power that comes from his convictions. In this competitive age, that is a much-needed attribute.
Bass Inside: The solo project you sent me that initiated our talks was released in 2003. I have also noticed that you are preparing a new release. Will this be something that comes to pass fairly soon?
Edo: As soon as the 1st CD was finished I started planning the 2nd CD. Originally it was going to be titled â€œ Lines Of Inquiryâ€. But due to some changes with people I was working with the project fell through the cracks and I trashed all but one session. I found another engineer, Ray Cooper. He was really into what I was doing and encouraged me to continue and heâ€™d help out. He really listens to what Iâ€™m trying to instead of trying to claim authorship and arrangements on my music. This should be completed and boxed by May 2006.
BIM - Can you tell me where you stand with this project and whether it will be a continuation of the tone and sensibilities of your first solo project or a branching off into other areas?
Edo: This next CD is my exploration in textures, revisiting old material and covering other artistâ€™s material. Itâ€™s a bit further away from my first CD but not by much. What I was trying to do in my first CD was overshadowed by a lot by guitar stuff occupying space considered, â€œNothing happening here so I can put my guitar here.â€ My 2nd CD will be more about exploring space and letting things grow and develop. Itâ€™s a kind of minimalist approach.
BIM - Do you have a working title for the new project?
Edo: The album will be called â€œPhoenix.â€ This title represents personal changes, musical changes and a renewed sense of self. Besides itâ€™s a beautiful name.
BIM - If so, what do you hope to convey with that title?
Edo: Transformation. After some personal conflicts with people I was working with I lost my direction and I was rattled from within. It took some time to get back on my feet. There are people who for whatever reason have this ability to cloud your vision, tell you youâ€™re wrong and take whatâ€™s yours and try to make it theirs. (Editors Notes: Lesser minds are never short of cunning, nor are they slow in recognising things they themselves will never own or create out of their own muse.)
The ultimate goal is that when you play this CD you might experience a change in your day, if only for a moment. I remember when I first heard Pat Methenyâ€™s tune â€œSan Lorenzoâ€ in a music store. I was wandering the isles looking for new music when the opening line from the song came through the store stereo, I stood there in awe. Mesmerized, I felt like time had stopped. The only thing I could hear was the music. From the moment that song came on and ended seemed like an eternity. I knew from that moment something had changed me. I think music of this nature touches (well any music that speaks to you) something in all of us. We spend much of our day bombarded by so much input that when we hear something that is outside the â€œtypical droneâ€ that becomes desirable if not more noticeable.
BIM - You had mentioned in one of our conversations, that some of these songs, both in the first release and with this new one in the making, were writing quite some time ago. Is that correct?
Edo - Yes. I began writing my own music because I found it hard to play other artists music. This was on many levels, technically and mentally. Back then I was a babe in the woods, wanting to do a lot but unable to execute it because of my inexperience. To this day there are some pieces of music that I dare not attempt for various reasons. Despite all that, I do continue to study the masters who came before me. Some of my best ideas come from other artists. Two pieces on the next CD, Blue Asia and Phoenix, were written over 25 years ago. Back then, I was focusing on composing and sacrificed my bass practice. I think my bass playing has caught up with my writing so I think Iâ€™ve grown in both areas. I think one of the true tests of a good composition is how well it stands the test of time. I think these two held up pretty well.
BIM - With the two projects will you then have brought yourself up to date musically, not only where you are now as a player, but also the material that you have created thus far?
Edo - Iâ€™m not sure I could emphatically say â€˜yesâ€™ or â€˜noâ€™. Itâ€™s an evolving process of exploring ground youâ€™ve never walked on and building on material youâ€™ve bashed around for some time. I practice constantly so in that Iâ€™m always revisiting old material. With new gear, new basses, pedals, etc., I start trying new ideas.
As a bassist Iâ€™m always striving to be my best in the supportive role. Not a day goes by I donâ€™t touch my instrument. I know I can never have a perfect day but I can always reach for a quality nearing perfection. Some days are better than others. I try to keep a positive view of my playing and not be consumed by my internal voices. Where I am today may change in a few months. Not so much in sound perhaps but in attitude and my ability to execute ideas thoroughly. The recordings are definite snapshots of who I was as an artist at that time. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m the same person musically right now.
What Iâ€™m striving for right now is the ability to go out and play a show by myself like a folk musician with just a bass in hand, a few gadgets and a melody that can be propelled over a bass part. There are a few guys out there who can really tell a story with just a bass and nothing else around them. My next CD hints at this.
BIM - While I think to ask, I do realize you have done considerable work for other folks as a studio person and as a sideman. When you take on a studio schedule, is it often the case that you do not know if you will be with the person in the live environment as well?
Edo - For every CD Iâ€™ve recorded on except maybe one, I pretty much ended up playing live with the artist if only for a few gigs.
BIM - Do you have a preference as to live versus studio work when working with and for others?
Edo - I love both. Is one more fulfilling? In the studio you get many chances to make it right. Live on stage, you have to be able to let go of any imperfections and move on very quickly. That in itself is another form of practice: Overlooking bloopers. You canâ€™t dwell on sour notes or youâ€™re out of the musical moment. That is much more hazardous than missing a note or playing a wrong note. You can be out of the musical moment quite easily. All you have to do is pay attention to anything else thatâ€™s not music while youâ€™re playing and youâ€™re no longer â€˜in the moment.â€™ For instance like looking at the woman in the front row, or how much money youâ€™re making playing this gig, or did you lock the front door when you left for the gig? This kind of brain chatter during a performance is hazardous. It takes a lot of focus to just be there silent mentally and at the same time be aware of the music going by. One bad habit I have is I stop breathing. I have to remember to breath.
BIM - Does one bring you more fulfilment and joy than the other?
Edo - They are both equal to me.
BIM - Considering your own music and that the fact that you are a very melodic player, do you ever find you have to let your prospective studio clients know that you are more than capable of playing straight-forward conventional bass in its traditional support role?
Edo - I find myself usually more in the supportive role. What I do to amuse myself is purely for me. If anyone likes what I do, then Iâ€™m glad. But what I do that is unconventional as a bassist is about my own joy. If I engaged myself with what people might think then it becomes this dysfunctional type of relationship where Iâ€™m trying to please everyone but myself. Needless to say but thatâ€™s self-defeating.
Of course this is all null and void when you are asked to play in someoneâ€™s band, itâ€™s not about you. I believe you must conform to the music or donâ€™t bother. Donâ€™t waste your time or the artist time. There are exceptions but rarely do I go out and start playing groovy melodic parts while the song requires me to go boom-boom-boom. Does that make sense?
As a bassist my job is to serve the music. So I do what is required to make the music happen and give it the same intensity as if it were my own music. I read in a magazine about a bassist who got a gig playing with Sting. The bassist was told that he had to exclusively play Stingâ€™s P-bass, no exceptions. For me, I canâ€™t stand playing basses that arenâ€™t set up for my playing style. But If Sting asked me to play his bass Iâ€™d have to honour that. Itâ€™s his show and what the hell do I know? I guess thatâ€™s why Sting isnâ€™t calling me. (Laughs)
Personally this goes against my feeling that if weâ€™re asked to play in someoneâ€™s band itâ€™s because they love the way we play and the sound we have. I know thereâ€™s a caveat, if your livelihood is playing as a sideman, well then you have to suck it in and take whatever it is they demand of you. Itâ€™s a catch 22. How do you stay true to who and what you are when youâ€™re asked to play and sound like someone else? I could never in a million years sound like Jaco, Marcus or Stanley nor would I want to. That is what they do and who they are. I am for the very same reasons.
BIM - Back to your own new project that is in the making, did you chose on this second album to use any or none of the same players as were used in the first album?
Edo - Iâ€™m using all new players except for drummer Paul Van Wageningen. I love his playing and have a good working musical relationship. Why mess with a good thing? This CD is about creating a mood from start to finish. I wanted it to have texture outside the usual â€˜bassâ€™ albums. Itâ€™s not about bass really but what I do as an artist and composer. The bass just happens to be my voice.
I was very fortunate to get one of my biggest bass heroes Mark Egan to play on Blue Asia. Mark was one of the very first guys who I emulated. He has a great sound and a very melodic approach. I finally got to meet him in person when I was at the NAMM show 2006.
On Blue Asia itâ€™s just 2 basses and drums. I begged him to play 8 string fretless bass for the melody and solo. He agreed. It sounds great. Mark and I exchange many emails. I sent him several cuts and once he chose the tune he wanted to play on, he told me his scale wage and I said great and sent him a check. I used a local Pedal Steel player named Rob Powell for a couple of ambient pieces I wrote. He has that sound that I love. Itâ€™s very atmospheric. Heâ€™s fantastic.
I wrote a piece that was calling for Tabla. So after many phone calls I got this artist named Debapriya Sarkar to play. He did a fantastic job. He blew us away in the studio. I got Tommy Kesecker to play vibraphones. Heâ€™s a local musician in the Bay Area. I love the vibes. Coincidently my friend Joe Sonnefeldt who played vibes on my first CD borrowed Tommyâ€™s Vibes to do the session for my first CD. I like those 6 degrees of separation. I got Tommyâ€™s vibes on the first recording then got both Tommy and his vibes. Not bad eh?
For guitar I got a New York Player named Lorn Leber. He relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Heâ€™s got great tone and skill with his axe. Heâ€™s quite modest but one hell of a guitar player. And heâ€™s very willing to give to the music. Plus we get along great. Last year I met a musician named Blue, a vertical flutist. We played together for my first CD release gig. It went over so well I got him to record a prelude for me. Itâ€™s a very haunting melody played on a double vertical flute. Blue is a sweet soul to work with.
For the cut Phoenix, I brought in Saxophonist George Brooks. Heâ€™s got a beautiful tone and is a great player. At one point bassist Al Caldwell and I recorded a duet together but the track didnâ€™t make it on this project. But it will be on my 3rd CD, which will be duets and perhaps some trio stuff. I also have some singers coming in on one piece. But as of this interview they arenâ€™t known.
This is going to be a special CD. It has nothing to do with musical prowess on the bass, but more to do with creating an atmosphere. Iâ€™m very fortunate to have these great players on this CD.
BIM - For those that know you, your approach in your music is as very much the melody player. The album is not a â€˜whankfestâ€™ for bass players, but there is considerable technical skill there. When you began preparation for the actual recording of this first album and now with this second one, did you set yourself guidelines as to what you want the outcome to be?
Edo - Yes well, if I play melodically itâ€™s very much something I prepare for. Iâ€™m not gifted with hearing melodies, so I have to practice a lot, play and learn melodies and try to create them. Itâ€™s a daunting task to recreate yourself in the moment moving from bass to melodic voice but with practice the magic can happen. The practice time allows for me to get all the wanking out, so when the time comes Iâ€™ll have something real to say with a minimal amount of dribble. I do my best not to rely on â€˜licksâ€™ but when Iâ€™m out on a limb, they sure do come in handy.
BIM - Were you close to achieving that in your first release and as things are going now, will you think you will reach the same musical port as you initially set out for at the inception of this project?
Edo -Iâ€™m always working for whatâ€™s musically most interesting for me as a listener. Iâ€™m not very interested in bass pyro techniques and lots of tricky time changes. I went back and listened to all the Progressive rock from the 70â€™s that I loved at one time and I felt empty. Everything that I held in high esteem then, was vapid to me now. Not that they arenâ€™t great artists but something in me changed. Whatever that â€˜somethingâ€™ is that is what I use as guide.
BIM - With this first album, did you opt for touring it at all?
Edo - I wish I had more to say about this except that it was purely for me. I think I would like to tour some of this material and the next CD someday soon.
BIM - With the next project, will touring be one of the goals?
Edo --Iâ€™ll see what will happen. I would like to yes.
BIM - What factors are involved in the decision to tour or not?
Edo-Money. Other than that itâ€™s a matter of finding players who understand what Iâ€™m trying to achieve and not have them impose some other ideas that arenâ€™t suitable. (Like Fusion guitar licks all the time or incessant keyboard sounds or dribble.) The care and feeding of a â€˜bandâ€™ is somewhat costly depending on how old they are. Younger players are willing to live with less while seasoned players wonâ€™t put up with sleeping in a van or eating at 7-11.
Itâ€™s a shame but itâ€™s the bottom line: How much money do I have to pay the guys? More importantly though, we have to be friends in order to go out and tour. Music is about chemistry. If you have players who are talking BS behind your back or donâ€™t respect you, that kind of energy comes through. Itâ€™s very corrosive. For me, Iâ€™d hate to be out on the road stuck with someone who disrespects you or isnâ€™t your friend off stage.
BIM - As well, are you garnering much radio play with the current release and if so, what kinds of radio stations are responding?
Edo-Attention Span Radio and Smoothjazz.com have been very supportive.
BIM - Have there been parts of the world that you had reactions from that pleased and surprised you? Moreso than where you live now in the US?
Edo-Iâ€™m pleased that people like the CD and took the time to email me and tell me so. Iâ€™ve sold Cds in Norway, Switzerland, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, Argentina, Italy and England.
BIM - Why do you think that is?
Edo-Itâ€™s a fickle world and I think the â€˜bigâ€™ labels tend to saturate the market with what they think you ought to listen to marketing their latest idea of â€˜hotâ€™ sound. I think people like what I do because Iâ€™ve done something to change their moment. When they heard my music, it transformed them. Not permanently. I mean it cause them to stop and listen. I think we have this internal placeholder that vibrates when something itâ€™s seeking has been found. You know when it happens. Itâ€™s very mystical experience: You get soft vision, your breathing slows down and you sense an aura of peace. Iâ€™m not sure if that really happens but I know itâ€™s true for me when I hear music of â€˜specialâ€™ significance.
BIM - It is often an uphill battle to get people interested and to listen and more importantly to help you promote it via reviews, interviews, the whole promotional dance. I just wanted to find out how the response has been, what you have learnt not only to do, but what not to do.) Would you say that you have been somewhat enlightened in the very real and competitive world of promoting your music? Has it proven difficult capturing peoples attention?
Edo-I think the more I focus on what I do and not worry about attracting attention, people will notice. But Iâ€™m perfectly fine if people donâ€™t take notice. Oh, but that kind of attitude doesnâ€™t sell CDâ€™s I know. So part of me has to deal with that. Iâ€™m still new to â€˜sellingâ€™ myself. So thereâ€™s some aspect of promotion that I must learn regardless of how I feel about â€˜getting attention.â€™ Thereâ€™s no real formula for selling success but you can define what is successful for your self and live by those rules. I mean look at William Hung. That guy was a nobody student from UC Berkeley and became an overnight sensation from his TV appearance. Itâ€™s weird. Anyway, my attitude is do what you do and the rest follows.
BIM - As to the songs from this first CD themselves, does song writing come to you naturally? Do they flow or do you have to wrestle the songs into consciousness?
Edo-Oh my, itâ€™s a task because songs donâ€™t come naturally. Not a horrible task mind you. Itâ€™s one that needs nurturing. But there are moments when youâ€™re given a gift and it happens in seconds. 3 songs off my first CD were gifts: â€˜Intuitionâ€™, â€˜Quietlyâ€™ and â€˜Beneath a Painted Skyâ€™. I havenâ€™t had very many gifts so I patiently practice and try to recreate moments for those things to happen.
BIM - In research for this interview, I came across the fact that you grew up in the San Francisco area and that you were surrounded by the music of the likes of Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana and others. As you say, the music was â€˜practically oozing out into the neighbourhood. You couldnâ€™t help not being affected.â€ I have observed however that this current CD does seem to reflect different influences than that. In fact, one could also cite some elements of a World Music voice. Would I be correct in saying that the influences in todayâ€™s music play a bigger part in whom you are as a player and a composer now than those early influences? In other words, you live in the now and you create from the nowâ€¦
Edo-Yes. Like wine, which grapes you use influences the flavor and body of that wine. I try to absorb as much from my surroundings infusing that into my sound.
BIM - You mentioned to me once earlier that you have spent time in your earlier years with a four-string and in conventional bands. At what point did it seem that this was changing for you?
Edo-I think when I started to realize I was hearing a sound in my head that was more than just bass. No matter what I did on 4 strings, it sounded like a bass.
BIM - What brought about those changes?
Edo - The Chapman Stick. But it was hard to play but I managed to get pretty decent playing it. Not great but good enough to record and perform. Once Conklin came on the market the ballgame changed radically. I didnâ€™t have to relearn my technique to play on a multi-stringed bass. Staying with an all 4ths tuning was wonderful and much easier on the brain.
BIM - You mentioned in our talks that for some time you event went as far as 7 and a 9 string basses. Since then you have settled upon on upper limit of 6 strings. What were the reasons for moving back to a 6 from even higher numbered string basses?
Edo - I found that 7 strings was optimal for what I was trying to do. Anything less confuses me. Anything more does the same thing. Weird huh? I can deal with the width of the 7-string neck, keep the strings quiet and execute ideas without trying to work with the physics of the instrument. I do have an 8-string and thatâ€™s about as far as Iâ€™ll go.
BIM - Would you say there is some risk to be taken into account when it comes to injury in playing larger range basses if one is not careful to approach it correctly?
Edo-Oh that would add to it. But I hurt myself playing 4-string Acoustic Upright. So thereâ€™s no telling how or when an injury can occur. Good Technique has a role in preventing injuries but fatigue can lead to injuries.
BIM - What have you learned to be the most â€˜correctâ€™ way to handle the larger necked basses to therefore avoid problems later?
Edo - I use the Claw technique. The left hand thumb rest center on the back of the neck and the fingers press down. Itâ€™s taken years to get this to work but itâ€™s worth it. Itâ€™s the same technique I use on 4-string basses.
BIM - Did you yourself ever found yourself negatively affected physically in playing the larger basses?
Edo-Mostly if the instrument was too heavy. That can happen with a Fender 4 string. Another problem is keeping the other strings quiet when youâ€™re not playing quiet. Thereâ€™s a lot of palming and muting going on with both hands across 7 strings.
BIM - What was your first extended range bass?
Edo-The very first was the Chapman Stick. Then I got an Ibanez 5 string. (That was a horrible instrument) Then Guild came out with the Pilot 5- String. At that time that was perhaps the best on the market for the price and features. I still like that bass, but I donâ€™t own one anymore. Then I had a custom built 6-string made by Kim Schwarz in Chicago.
BIM - And have you moved on to include other basses in your musical arsenal? Can you describe them a bit, including some info on the Conklin basses and the Aquilina Basses from France.
Edo - I have 4 Conklin basses now: Two 7-strings, one 8-string and one 6-String. 7 String #1 has a Zebrawood top with Conklin Pickups and I believe a Bartolini Pre-amp. This is my main bass. 7 String #2 has a burled redwood top, mahogany back and maple center. 2 Bartolini Pickups and 3 band EQ. The top was damaged when one of the pots got slammed. But it plays really well. It has an extended fingerboard. 36 frets and 35-inch scale. Both of my 7 strings are tuned low B to High F. My 8-String Conklin is gorgeous. It has a walnut top and matching headstock and is fretless. The electronics are very similar to my Zebrawood 7-string. This bass sounds like a Sitar at times.
My Aquilina bass has a sycamore top and mahogany back. Benedetti Pickups and Aguilar 3 band EQ. Fretless epoxied Fingerboard. This is a gorgeous bass. Sabastien is a wonderful builder and unknown in the US. Heâ€™s got a following in France and other parts of Europe. You Better hurry and get your order in before it takes a year or two to get a Bass.
BIM - Now from the research I have done, I have repeatedly found references with other extended range bass players that Accugroove makes a very good cabinet for this, and that they are so clearly detailed and articulated that often one has to adjust their playing somewhat to accommodate for the fact the cabinet does not color or cover up the bass sounds. Was this true with you as well?
Edo-I think this is all very personal. What I like and what somebody else likes will always vary. Thereâ€™s an illusion out there propelled by this endorsement thing. What artist like to use and what theyâ€™re seen using are sometimes 2 different things. But thatâ€™s not always the case, so please forgive me for assuming. Iâ€™ve come to realize over the last 20 years that your instrument only sounds as good as the amp and speakers itâ€™s going through. AccuGroove has given the bass community an audiophile product that is articulate and very forgiving. You can plug any amp into it and youâ€™ll hear good sound. The better the amp, the better the sound. When you put great components together starting with a great instrument to a great amp to a great bass cabinet the results are quite stunning. But this sound isnâ€™t for everybody. I happen to love the sound of these cabinets. Punk rockers or Melodic Metal Trip Hop guys might want another sound. I knew guys in the 80â€™s who used to poke holes in their speakers with a pencil to get their â€˜sound.â€™ Again this is all very weird and very personal. Itâ€™s not for everybody.
BIM - Was some adjustment in your technique needed as well?
Edo-Not at all. Iâ€™ve been working on my technique since day one. Getting all the clicks and noises out of your playing is a life-long pursuit. Thatâ€™s what I usually warm up with is string crossings and listening for clicks, unwanted ringing strings, etc.
BIM - Can you tell me a bit about the other equipment you endorse as well? I believe you also use Nordstrand basses â€¦
Edo - I donâ€™t own or have a Nordstrand bass. (Yet. Maybe one day.) Carey is a great builder and a wonderful person. I think heâ€™s one of best out there. But Iâ€™m hoping to have one. Money is tight. Barker Vertical basses are wonderful too and have their own sound, particularly the fretless models. Wow!
I have a 5-string fretless Barker Bass but itâ€™s not in my main arsenal. Outside of that I donâ€™t endorse much of anything else. When I say I â€˜endorseâ€™ this means I really use it and no one pays me to say good things about their product. I pay for the gear and I really love it. There are lot of fortunate players out there who get paid to play other manufacturerâ€™s gear. It must be nice.
BIM - For these larger basses, do you use one uniform kind of string or manufacturer or different kinds and styles of strings for different basses?
Edo-I try to use the same gauge strings and brand. As of late Iâ€™m using Conklin Snake Skins and GHS Contact Core Super Steels. They both have a similar feel and tension that Iâ€™m used to. The gauges are: 127 100 80 60 45 27 22 (18 for my 8 String)
BIM - Do you find much use for bass forums including the extended range forums and conventional bass forums as a way to promote your work?
Edo - Community is a powerful thing. I need to hang out at these sites a bit more but itâ€™s hard when your time is limited. Between keeping a roof over my head, food on the table, practicing, gigging and hustling my music, thereâ€™s not much time for me.
BIM - You started out originally as a self taught bassist but later decided to attend some formal training at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. What brought you to the decision to pursue formal training?
Edo - I think a college education is a beautiful thing. If you get a college degree youâ€™ve achieved something grand. That will open many doors for you. I felt that a formal music education would give me a good foundation. It took a while to get it but I did it. I must admit it has a dark side too. Schooling can change your natural instincts to react in the music. I think your natural instincts teach you to trust your ears. Again this is all up for debate. Itâ€™s taken me some time to undo this and get me back to trusting my instincts.
BIM - Also I understand that it was through that time in Chicago that you started to bring a more professional approach to your playing as well as a good amount of live work as well as some great experiences, including one with Miles Davis Guitarist Pete Cosey and drummer Roy Haynes. Tell a bit about that time and others, if you would.
Edo -My time in Chicago was a wonderful time. I was learning new things, meeting great players and just absorbing whatever came my way. Pete Cosey is the man. He would quietly advise me and encouraged me to follow my sound. Oddly enough he knew my Uncle, Reice Hamel. Reice was a recording engineer. Pete and Maurice White used to go to my Uncleâ€™s place in Chicago and record demos there. So we had a lot to talk about.
I got to meet and play with Roy Haynes when I was in music school. He was doing a clinic there and he wanted to start off with a jam session. So a guitar teacher grabbed me on his way up to the stage and said â€œCome on.â€
I was petrified. I actually lost color in my face as we were preparing to play. Then the count-off came and we started off with a standard. Roy kept smiling at me and saying â€œCome on man, itâ€™s cool, play with me.â€ Then something happened that Iâ€™ll never forget, I fell in and we played a killer set of 3 tunes.
All my classmates were amazed and said that they had never heard me play like that. Roy came up to me and gave me his card in front of everyone and said, â€˜When youâ€™re ready, give me a call.â€™
BIM - You have yet to collect in that invite from Roy Haynes to look him up if you ever hit New York. Do you think you will ever follow up on that?
Edo-Maybe. What I would love to do is have him play on a recording of mine.
BIM - What was it that brought you back to San Francisco after acquiring all this great experience in Chicago?
Edo-I love the weather, the geology that I grew up with. Itâ€™s powerful and grounding. I donâ€™t live in SF proper. I live across the bay in Berkeley. I think itâ€™s important for your well being to be where you feel good. If you donâ€™t like your surroundings, this affects all other aspects of your life. Some American Indian tribes believed that they got their strength from the ground they were born on. I have similar thoughts to this.
BIM - Has there been any times where you wondered what your life would have been like if you had taken Roy up on his offer and moved to New York or some other place than back to California?
Edo-Oh yes, there have been moments where I pondered that along with all the other â€œWhat-ifâ€™sâ€ in my life. I live by my decisions and have no regrets. What I focus in on is where I am at in my life and not dwell with where Iâ€™m not at in my life. Meeting and playing with Roy was a special moment Iâ€™ll grant you that.
BIM - You have done considerable studio work for other people since getting back. How long has it been since it first occurred to you that you would also like to do something under your own banner, with you as composer and band leader?
Edo-I think I knew this from the start but it has taken me a lifetime to realize it. Better late than never. The reason for my â€˜late arrivalâ€™ is that I lacked in any self-confidence and felt that I had nothing of any real quality to say as an artist. Once I realized that I was my own worst enemy I took a 180-degree turn and began working on my music and seeking my own voice. That set the wheels in motion for me.
BIM - A quote lifted from your bio says, â€œOddly enough the real Jazz players consider me a rock musician. The rock musicians see me more of a Jazz guy. So there's the dilemma of my life: I belong to no tribe. A free spirit following my own heart's desire taking in whatever I feel is good for my soul.â€ This is both a ticket to freedom but it can also work against you because might not know how to package you. Most people in the industry when it comes to promotion need to put you in a little box so they can make their job of describing you easier. Is it difficult getting people to understand what you are trying to do and say and at the same time, not be trapped by limiting descriptions?
Edo-Itâ€™s a difficult thing to not run with the pack. I mean in one sense I do all the things that bass players ought to do and try to achieve as a bassist. But at some point your start to understand you do what you do. Anyone asking you to try to play like someone else is ludicrous. I could never play like Marcus Miller although I can take ideas from him and make them mine. I love all kinds of music so telling people â€˜Iâ€™m a jazz artistâ€™ could be a misnomer. What I write could be perceived as â€˜jazzâ€™ but I donâ€™t abide by the Jazz norms nor do I fit into the Rock world.
Yes itâ€™s difficult to describe what I do as an artist. But itâ€™s like you have to take things as how you perceive them. If you label people by their appearance than youâ€™re practicing bigotry. But if you try to see them for the content of their character, then youâ€™re working on another level. The music industry likes to put things into categories. I guess it helps them market the music and helps the listener make decisions on what they want. Itâ€™s very tricky.
Yes itâ€™s difficult to describe what I do as an artist.
BIM - You have described to me in conversation that you find your life â€˜interestingâ€™. You describe life as seeming to be a place of pain. That there is too much pain down here on this plane. Then in a later paragraph you say, â€œI love my life. It's very rich with new friends, new experiences and a general veneer of peace. I pretty much live day-to-day, moment to moment as best as I can. And best of all find fulfilment in everything I do. I can only hope this course continues until the end of my days.â€
These seemingly contrary statements are how most of us feel, as we both struggle though and relish life. I am not sure if you are aware of this or if this was even intended, but these thoughts you expressed in this previous paragraph come across in your first release very clearly. There is both beauty and conflict, aggression and passivity. This continuing balance could be seen as one of the strengths of your album. If you are aware of this, and agree, was this musical window into your heart intentional or just a matter of honesty?
Edo-Wowâ€¦I never really consider this but now that you place it in this context I do begin to understand that my subconscious is not hidden but speaks through my music. Itâ€™s true that I see a lot of pain in the world. Look at all the conflict around the world. Yet how do we stop from killing ourselves or going insane? I think the secret lies in being in the moment. Finding joy in the tiniest of things in your life, create peace in yourself, even if for 5 minutes. Life is very complicated and like music, needs nurturing. It takes a lot of energy to keep things in prospective. But once you can feel it, it gets easier. Just like music.
BIM - When the new project is finished, will there be things you will do differently than you did with your first venture into being a project leader and composer?
Edo-Everything takes time, money and surrounding yourself with a supportive group of people. 2 out of 3, and you can accomplish a lot. If you get 3 out of 3 you can do just about anything. Iâ€™m shooting for 3 for 3.
BIM - Have you managed to both learn from your first album but also retain the hunger and wish for new conquests in the new project?
Edo-HA! I hope so.
For me Iâ€™m never totally satisfied and Iâ€™m always hungry. I do think that some artists get burned out.
I have friends who do a lot of jobbing dates for a living. They love playing music but theyâ€™re tired and not doing much in the â€˜creativeâ€™ aspects of playing. So itâ€™s more of a job to them. For me thereâ€™s no wrong or right for musicians as to how to lead a fruitful musical life. Each of us has our own path and no one can tell you how to walk that path. What we learn and how we learn is all very personal so whatâ€™s good for me may be totally ludicrous and stupid to someone else. And thatâ€™s OK.
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