A Whispering Maverick – with Ed Friedland
Ed has recently relocated and now lives and works out of the greater Nashville TN, area, and is touring full-time with The Mavericks.
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Embrace simplicity! Find the deeper meaning in the obvious! I knew a long time ago that I’d never be another Jaco, Marcus Miller, or Eddie Gomez… But I learned to harness the power of simplicity when I approached it with commitment.
Andy – Hello Ed, what a treat, thank you for taking the time to contribute here and share some of your experiences with myself and the readers at Andy’s World of Bass. Where and at what age did you get your first introduction to playing music? What inspired you early on, and built a foundation of passion for playing bass, and what were your first organized band and performing experiences like?
Ed – Hi Andy, thanks for thinking I’m interesting enough to take up space on your new site!
My first musical inspiration was watching my older cousins and their friends sitting around singing with guitars. It was the whole ’60s folk music thing, and it was fun to see how it brought people together. Then, when the Johnny Cash Show came on TV in 1969, it really turned me on to see all this great live music… I was hooked.
I started on guitar at 10 years old (I eventually got over it) but picked up the acoustic bass at 13 when I went to Junior High. I figured I already knew the strings from guitar so it would be easy. I played in the orchestra at school, and in the Queens Borough-wide orchestra. I started taking private lessons and went on to the High School of Music and Art in NYC. We had some bad cats there in those days, most notably Marcus Miller, who was the first guy I ever saw slap… It kind of ruined me for life! I was playing in bands as a guitarist, and in the orchestra on bass, but in my senior year I decided to try playing jazz on the upright. I guess it came to me fairly easy because it seemed that I could walk through changes pretty well right away – it just made sense to me. Naturally, things got more challenging when I went to Berklee in ’77. Berklee gave me the training and experience I needed to get out there and gig, and I’ve never looked back.
Andy – You have an impressive list of blues and R&B artists that you’ve worked with, including the great Robert Junior Lockwood. Yours is a fantastic musical pedigree and confirms you as player with a high level of musicianship. I’m also a blues/R&B musician and believe these styles are simple in some ways, yet highly sophisticated in specific characteristics of style and required discipline. They are crucial and fundamental corner stones at the core of American music. How would you encourage bassists coming up to embrace the blues and really learn how to play all aspects of it correctly?
Ed – Robert Junior once gave me what I consider to be a supreme compliment, he said: “You play blues pretty good for a jazz musician!” Undoubtedly he ran into a lot of educated players that couldn’t simplify their playing enough to play what he wanted. It’s still something I need to be aware of – the tendency to overplay.
For someone starting off from scratch, it makes sense to learn how to play simply and effectively – and blues is simple. And of course, it’s not hard to convince people it’s the foundation of so many other styles. So, here’s a shameless plug for my book “Blues Bass” (Hal Leonard). I made a point of breaking down the steps and laying out a clear path to becoming a functional player in that style, and there’s a fun play along.
Andy – You have been a devoted music educator throughout your entire career while being involved in performing and recording with artists of various styles, also an author and a journalist writing for various music related publications, throw in your work doing instrument marketing demonstration videos, and you are in my eyes the perfect definition of a modern entrepreneurial musician, a topic I’ve lectured on far and wide and written about extensively. Please share with the readers your views on playing versatility and creating vocation from music related passions.
Ed- Thanks Andy. It all happened organically for me, I never had a plan – I still don’t! All of the various things I’ve done over the years were motivated by my desire to share something of value. Obviously we all need to make a living, but whenever I made decisions based solely on that, I felt cheated. No one can pay me enough money to enjoy doing something I find distasteful. If you can’t love what you do, do something else.
So.. Rather than offer advice on how to do it like I did… Here’s what I can say:
First of all – educate yourself! Whether it’s how to play bass, how to write, how to skydive… Okay, skydiving is potentially fatal… Don’t skip class! My point is… To have a sustainable career in any field, you have to have something valuable to offer. There are already enough “internet experts” in the world – stand out from the pack by having some real experience, knowledge, and the ability to convey that to others.
Examine your motivations. Why do you want to do this? Whether your reasons are altruistic or not, it’s important to be aware of them. From there, you can work with integrity, even if it’s just about getting paid.
And the last thing I’ll say is learn to accept advice. Learn to hear criticism without folding up, or getting defensive. I wouldn’t be where I am if I had ignored everything older and/or wiser people said to me. I know it’s hard, but the key is not to get invested in being “right.” When I was 18, my bass teacher laid some stuff on me that really pissed me off… I switched teachers because of it! But damned if he wasn’t right! The message finally got through.
Oh… And learn patience. People today live in perpetual hyper space. Everything is now, now! We freak out when our phone takes too long to connect, for a page to load… Achieving anything of value takes more time than that… Learn to be patient, otherwise you’ll go through life constantly pissed off. Here’s a hint: Patience is at the heart of all good bass playing!
Andy – Your current gig with The Mavericks has you back on the road, playing upright primarily and performing to large audiences. Tell us about joining the band, the tasks of your role, and what plans are in store that will give us the opportunity to come hear you play.
Ed – Well, this gig has been amazing! First and foremost, I’ve been a Mavericks fan for about 15 years, so getting to play with them is an honor and a real thrill! They’ve been around for 25 years now, and their back catalog is astounding, not to mention the current lineup of tunes, plus any spur of the moment covers Raul Malo might call on the fly! In other words… Repertoire! I think one of the reasons I fit in so well is I’ve spent years banging it out in clubs playing all different styles of music, and the one thing that has always made me a top call (besides my sparkling personality) is my repertoire skills. I know a LOT of tunes, and can hear my way through most anything on the spot. And while the Mavericks were originally considered a country group – they are by no means limited to that. We play Latin, Ska, Jump, R&B, Rock… Hank Williams to Pink Floyd, to the Temptations – literally. The guys are all superb players that represent a panorama of musical styles, but the band has an unmistakable musical identity. It always sounds like the Mavericks no matter what we play.
It’s been very rewarding, and a real life shift for me to go from staying home teaching, writing, shooting video, and playing a wide variety of music locally to touring constantly, playing large venues for appreciative fans, and playing only one bass!
My role in the band is very traditional. There are no bass solos. I don’t even have a lot of leeway in terms of note choice. I play triads, root-5-8, quarter notes, Latin rhythms…real simple and repetitive. That must sound like a trip to hell for some of the readers out there, but I say to you: Embrace simplicity! Find the deeper meaning in the obvious! I knew a long time ago that I’d never be another Jaco, Marcus Miller, or Eddie Gomez… But I learned to harness the power of simplicity when I approached it with commitment.
The biggest part of my job is feel. I play the same exact notes that every previous Mavericks bass player has played, but why did they ask me to join after one set? I made it feel better. Not because I’m a technical monster, or have ultra hip harmonic substitutions – I played the gig from a place of love for the music. Now, I get to do that all the time, how sweet is that?
We have some great shows coming up, the Beacon Theater in my home town, NYC! Some festivals in Europe, network TV appearances, etc. It’s like I jumped on to a moving train! The band has a great legacy, but really – as a long time fan, I can honestly say the best stuff is happening right now! Our new studio record is basically done, but first there’s going to be a live release from the tour last Fall.
I also love to see familiar faces, or meet other bass players on the road – come by and say hi! The schedule is online at www.themavericksband.com Come on out and see the band, I guarantee you will be shaking something before long!
Photo by Hillary Yasmen Shemin
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