Tuesday, December 01, 2015

SHOW ALERT: Stu Hamm Band at Oddbody's in Dayton on Friday, 12/4

I was first introduced to the virtuoso bass playing skills of Stu Hamm in 1990 by my bass-playing older friend, Chris Rhoton.  Hamm’s eclectic sound cohesively incorporates elements of jazz, rock, country, classical and funk alongside his distinct two-handed tapping style. 
In support of his excellent recently released new album, The Book of Lies, Stu Hamm along with guitarist Alex Skolnick (Testament) and drummer Joel Taylor (Al DiMeola) will perform at Oddbody’s in Dayton on Friday, December 4.    
In anticipation, I - along with contributions from Chris Rhoton - spoke with Stu about his influences, playing style and more.

You had such an influence on a generation of bass players; who are some of your influences and who are some of the younger bass players you really admire?
“My biggest influence growing up was of course, Danny Bonaduce from the Partirdge Family...then Paul McCartney. Chris Squire changed my life when I heard "Roundabout", and it was then that I decided to be a bass player. Then John Entwistle, Stanley Clarke, Percy Jones and Jaco Pastorius changed my life when I saw him on November 8th, 1978 in Boston.  Rhonda Smith is a great player, I also had the opportunity to tour with Divinity Roxx, and she is bad ass!  I also really enjoy Bubby Lewis'” – Stu Hamm

In your opinion, who is the most overlooked or underrated bass player?
“That's a good question...it would be ridiculous to say Paul McCartney, but it seems that he is better known for his singing and songwriting than his melodic bass playing. Honestly, I don't think that some players give me as much credit than I deserve for taking ideas that I helped start/create and took them to the next level...but we all learn and steal from those who came before us.” – SH

The two-handed tapping you helped popularize very much mimics the skill needed by piano players.  Do you play piano?  Would you encourage bass players to take piano lessons?
“I did play piano for many years before I switched to bass. Certainly the coordination of using two hands to play piano helped me with my two hand independence when I started to work on tapping. I would highly recommend that all musicians study piano.  It gives you a better visual concept of harmony than on a fretted instrument.” – SH

You've played with such a wide range of musicians, from heavy metal guitarists to jazz musicians. How do you go about preparing for playing with someone you haven't played with before?
“Another good question.  At this point in my career, I have seen it all and am confident that when I have a bass in my hands, things will go smoothly on most musical situations.  If there is music to be learned beforehand, you can be sure that I will have put the hours and work into being fully prepared when I show up and plug in.” – SH

One of my favorites, “Back To Shalaballa” taken from The Book Of Lies, has a jumpy rhythm and some Afro-pop guitar riffs that recall Graceland-era Paul Simon.  What was your inspiration for that composition?
“My father taught ad lived in South Africa in 1979 and brought me back a copy of The Indestructible beat Of Sowetto, so I was hip to South African Pop way before Paul Simon helped bring it to attention...it is my happy place go-to music.” – SH

What original and/or cover song in your repertoire is your favorite to play live and why?
“I have been fortunate to travel all over the world and have seen many beautiful places, but nothing tugs on my heart string like the West Marine Coastline...and that is what I think of when I play "Going to California" when I am far from home.” – SH

The nature of your music allows for a lot of improvisation, especially as a trio.  How much do allow for improv each night and what can new listeners expect from a Stu Hamm show?
“I chose Alex Skolnick and Joel Taylor for this version of the SHB because of their ability to listen and react. They both bring so many musical ideas, and come from different musical universes so the sum is greater than the individual pieces. There will be something for everyone…new songs, old songs...cool covers of songs that everyone knows...and you will see three friends enjoying themselves by putting all they have into something that they love.” – SH 



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