Interview - Jason Raso

Jason Raso

Over the past two decades, eight albums and countless live performances, Jason Raso has shown that he not only has the skills to pay the bills, but more often than not, enough musical currency left over at the end of the month to make good on the debts other musicians have welched on. A Hartke Canadian Artist Search Winner (2010), Raso is a master of the four and six-string bass guitar whose music has been heard on public radio and jazz stations around the globe. Jason Raso’s latest album “Man of 40 Faces” features 11 new original compositions. Eight solo performances and three duets with legendary bassist Alain Caron, trombone phenom Wycliffe Gordon and brilliant vibraphonist Francesco Pinetti.

What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?

I’ve never considered myself a natural talent. I had to work hard and put in the time.  I realized that was the only way for me to learn. When I tried to rush things it never worked. So I learned to be patient. I know that if stick with something I will be able to play it.  If it takes a really long time, then so be it! My results are directly related to how hard I am willing to work.  I also apply this philosophy to the business side of my music.

What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

Jaco Pastorius – Word of Mouth

Dave Holland Quintet – Prime Directive

As strong as the bass playing is on these albums, it’s the compositions that really stand out.

Can you share some practice ideas? What should aspiring bassists focus on? What worked/works for you? I realize this is a very broad question that varies with individuals' needs, but I'm looking for some general ideas, and in particular what worked for you.

I think it helps to clearly identify the kind of player you want to be and work towards that goal.

My weakest areas are walking bass lines and sight-reading. So, I try to focus on that. I also struggle soloing over certain changes, so I have made that a priority.

I used to work separately on ear training, scales, arpeggios and technique but I always struggled to apply things.  These days I try to tie it all to repertoire and composition to give my practice context. It has made a big difference. I also try to spend a fair amount of time just listening to music. Sometimes, I spend too much time with a bass in my hands!

I also keep a detailed practice log that I review on a regular basis. This helps me keep an eye on my progress. I have a weekly checklist just to make sure I cover everything I want to.

I’m always fine-tuning the operation, making little adjustments here and there.

Do you have any advice for entering the music scene?

 Early on I decided that I wanted to compose and perform my own material. As you can imagine, bassist-led jazz music is not always an easy sell. I essentially started by creating my own gigs, booking venues and putting on my own shows.  I also started releasing albums independently in 2001.

I also decided that I would only take “side” gigs if I really enjoyed the music. I didn’t think it was fair to the bandleader to take the gig and not give the music the attention it deserved.

Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?

I use Fodera basses and GK amplifiers. I’ve played a lot basses and amps over the years but I’ve never been happier with the tone I have now. There’s a lot of great gear out there and while I think it’s important to know what your options are, having one go to instrument is ideal.  That way you really get to know it inside out.

What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?

I have some solo performances and clinics coming up in the New Year in support of my latest release “Man of 40 Faces.”