When I was learning how to play bass, funk became an integral part of my education. The reason is simple: funk is all about the bass. If one wishes to learn how to sit in a pocket, just play along to funk tracks…”live” funk tracks work best, if you can find some good ones. Why live ones? Trying to mimic a good funk bassist’s improv will show you just about everything you need to know about bass playing…from switching grooves at the drop of a penny, sitting in the pocket and tricks and tips along the way.
One funk player that I always practiced alongside (via CD, of course) was Bootsy Collins. Not the Bootsy from the George Clinton years or the solo years, but the Bootsy from the James Brown years. This Bootsy was a very young and wet behind the ears Bootsy AND this was before he started drowning out his awesome bass runs with tons of unnecessary effect pedals. Yes, the James Brown Bootsy is what all funky bass players wish to attain. There would be no Victor Wooten if not for Bootsy.
Victor Wooten is arguably the best bass player on the planet (many will argue in favor of Jaco Pastorius), and Victor sites his first main influence to Bootsy. Check out some VW awesomeness right here. Amazing, I know. He defies logic.
I can remember spending practically every night attempting to play along to a young Bootsy to a live CD of James Brown from back in the day. In fact, I seem to recall the liner notes telling me that James Brown had just fired his first band the day before this gig (apparently, JB was notorious for this) and Bootsy and his band were immediately hired by JB to sit in for a few gigs. Ended up, they became JB’s backing band for several tours after that. But, listening to that show blew my mind, especially knowing the backstory and knowing that James Brown was an improvisational artist on stage. Turns out that Bootsy, unknown to him, was instructing the world how to play proper funk bass at that show. I can’t remember the name of the CD, but I’m sure its still out there.
At any rate, I came across a video of Bootsy funking it out and discussing what it was like to work with James Brown. It roared up a whole ton of bass playing memories for me and I figured I would share. Perhaps I’ll scrounge up a Bootsy/JB video for another post. In the meantime, enjoy.
Thanks for visiting.
Till next time…
David (Cali Dingo)