Touching Bass With Alain Caron

Alain Caron

By Tristan Stagg, Halifax NS

Canadian world renowned bassist Alain Caron, is best known for his work with the 1980's jazz fusion group UZEB. In his career, Alain has teamed up and toured internationally with the Mike Stern Trio, the Leni Stern Band, as well as the CARON-ECAY-LOCKWOOD trio. Since then, Alain has released numerous solo albums such as "Rhythm and Jazz", "Call me Al”, "Play", and most recently in 2006, "Conversations". After two tours of Europe and playing at several major jazz festivals in Canada earlier this year, Caron is back on his game with the release of a new solo album early this fall.

Cashbox had the opportunity to speak with Alain about his past and what is next to come.

TS: Who were your influences growing up?

AC: I started playing bass when I was very young, around the age of 12. I was exposed to all the top forty music, whatever was playing on the radio back then. From The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix, American Standards, South American and French music. Then I heard an Oscar Peterson record with Ray Brown on bass and that really hit me hard. I was around 14-15 when I first heard it;that is what really turned me on to jazz. I couldn't figure out what note he was playing and the way he was playing it. After that I discovered Scott LaFaro, Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter, all these great upright bass players. I was already listening to Blood Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power, and then of course Stanley Clarke and Jaco came in.

TS: What kind of music do you listen to now?

AC: I listen to different kinds of music. I don't listen to music as music as I used to. I like to listen to silence once in awhile, especially when I want to write new music it is very important for me to find my own space and hear music inside of me so I isolate myself from music. Beside from that, I listen to all kinds of things like very modern electronics, classical music. I go back to Ravel and even Bach. I go back to that. But then I listen to old Miles Davis and Bill Evans Trio with Eddie Gomaz. It is all about the jazz.

TS: What is your opinion on bass players that are just starting out today?

AC: It is amazing how many young great bass players or even drummers or young musicians that are growing so fast and get to a certain maturity at a very young age. I'm thinking about Adrian Faro, a French bass player, or this young drummer Damien Schmitt from France. They are  in their early twenties and they’re so mature and already accomplished musicians. It’s amazing how the young generation learn. They all have a very sophisticated language and vocabulary, it's really quite fascinating.

TS: What are you currently working on and what is next to come?

AC: I'm actually writing music for a new recording. I don't know exactly what the format is going to be. I'm in the writing process right now. This one is going to be an electric. I don't want to say fusion but it is going to be solid for sure. I'm in pre-production of the music right now, I have about three tunes. The deeper I get then I’ll find the right musicians to play it. All I really have is an idea. I have a trio in France with the drummer, Damien Schmitt. I would like to use him. On the other hand I did some concerts with Horaicio Hernandez. We did some gigs last May and we’re going to do some gigs the end of September, beginning of October. That would be incredible to record with him as well. As you can see I have a few options with great musicians, it depends where the writing takes me. I would like to record before the end of the year.

TS:What made you stay with the six string over the four or the five?

AC: It’s a matter of having a wider register. I like to go to the low B. I was first interested in having the low register when synthesizers started playing bass lines. Joe Zawinul, he was one of the first guys to use synthesizers to play bass lines and he was hitting those low D,C# and B. I wanted to have it; I cannot play without it now. Then having the high C opens up the high register so when I play solo I can play on top of the bass register. Sometime I can have the keyboard player play the roots and I can still play on top of it without having any conflict within the register. Having this high C, I can almost reach the register of a cello which is very lyrical. Definitely the six string is my bass, I have been playing the six string for more then twenty years.

TS:What influences to use such bass playing technique such as double thumb?

AC: I'm completely “self taught”. I've never copied any other bass player’s technique. It all came naturally. It is a sound that came in my head that I wanted to produce and I've been looking for a technique to produce that.

TS:On your latest CD Conversations you have songs such as "Questions" and "Confirmation". How does this tie into the title of the album?

AC: The concept of the record is that it is all duets, different duets with different players. Then I feel when you talk with one person at a time, it is A direct conversation. You talk, you listen and observe. So this is exactly the approach of this record having different duets with different friends and then talking to each other. So that to me was musical conversation.

TS: Where do you usually come up with the name for your songs such as "Turkey Loose on the Kit", "Slam the Clown" and "D-Code"?

AC: Sometimes it’s just the situation that brings the title. For example, Turkey Loose on the Kit, comes from the drummer Johnny Rabb. He said "Listen to that drum fill I just did. It sounds like there's a turkey loose on my drum kit". We laughed so hard at that image. It was really, really funny. I said “well that's the title of the tune.” So that comes from my friend Johnny Rabb.

TS: How about D-Code?

AC: D-Code is because it is in D. D7 or Dminor, it is around D. Some friend of mine said there is some harmony inside of it; you go outside of D a bit. So I said it was my D-Code.

TS: How about Slam the Clown?

AC: When I was young there was a puppet that we had. The bottom was heavy and then the top you could hit that thing but it was always coming back to your face. You would hit it like you would punch it. It was like a punching bag. Mine was a clown. I was punching it and it was always coming back to my face. So "Slam the Clown" is definitely not a ballad it is quite aggressive. It reminded me of those moments when I was hitting that stupid thing.

TS: Being a bass player myself I listen to all of your music and respect your bass lines but, one of my favorites is “D-Code”. How did you come about writing that tune?

AC: Normally I write music on piano. “Slam the Clown” was written on bass and “D-Code” was written on bass. My idea for when I started writing the tune was that I wanted to have a bass groove, play some chords and play a melody all at the same time. I can play “D-Code” by myself on the bass and you will hear all the parts. On my DVD I play the intro by myself so you can see the bass groove in the chords, and the minor sixth is always there. You can hear the chord and the character of it. So that was the basic idea behind that tune when I wrote that piece.

TS: On behalf of Cashbox Canada and myself, I would like to thank you for your time. It was an honour speaking with you and all the best with the new album

AC: My pleasure, thank you very much.

For More on Alain visit: