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BassPlayer 2017-01

BassPlayer 2017-01

LINK FACE TECH PLAY

LINK FACE TECH PLAY LEARN BASS NOTES B BASSNOTES BrAND X, MJ12 Percy Jones Fretless Frontiers By Rick Suchow | “The gigs all went very well,” says Percy Jones of the recent reunion of his band Brand X, which performed a successful string of shows this past fall. “We hadn’t played together with this lineup doing this material since 1977, so there was initially a sense of trepidation not knowing how the music would connect after 39 years. That was quickly dispelled after the first gig.” It was an event that the band’s many fans have long awaited, and there are more dates planned for early 2017. It’s hard to believe that four decades have passed since the Welsh bassist first emerged as an early fretless pioneer. Inspired by the playing of upright master Charles Mingus, young Percy filed down the frets under the G string of an old Gretsch semiacoustic long-scale bass, creating what he called a hybrid fretted-fretless. He eventually ditched it for a fretless 1974 Fender Precision, and with that he was off to the races. Developing a unique approach, Jones delivered chops-busting angular bass lines and peppered them with sputtering three-finger fills, double-stops, and sliding harmonics. Co-founding Brand X in 1975 with guitarist John Goodsall and others, the group pushed boundaries with its inventive instrumental music and garnered wide attention when Genesis drummer Phil Collins joined a year later. Brand X helped define jazz-fusion’s late-’70s heyday with well-received albums like Unorthodox Behavior and Morrocan Roll. After the group split, Jones continued on with a string of creative projects, including his group Tunnels and his 1990 solo release Cape Catastrophe. Although he has increasingly veered into experimental music with recent releases, the past year has seen somewhat of a return to form for Percy with his latest quartet MJ12, which released its debut album this past summer, and the reunion of Brand X. How did the Brand X reunion come together? John, [drummer] Kenwood Dennard, and I had the opportunity to get together and play here in New York back in the summer. The results were quite good, and we also had the opportunity to do a short tour with the help of promoter Norman Bedford. We decided, initially at least, to do material from the first three Brand X albums, since they were deemed the most popular, and it was from the period when Kenwood played with us. When we started rehearsing the material, with a bit of memory jogging, it was quickly apparent that the old spark was still alight. How is it different now? I think our individual musicality is broader than it was back in the day. We’ve all played with other bands and projects and gained experiences, so it’s all more mature. Also, the 14 bassplayer.com / january2017

i INFO LISTEN Percy Jones, Cape Catastrophe [1990, Gonzo]; MJ12, MJ12 [2016, Gonzo]; Brand X, Unorthodox Behavior [1976, Charisma], Masques [1978, Charisma]; Brian Eno, Another Green World [1975, Island] technology has changed enormously since the late ’70s. Now we have better-sounding PA systems, the whole gamut of digital technology, etc. Back then, the only digital gear I remember seeing was by Eventide. The process of getting recordings out there has changed with the advent of the internet. What was your personal highpoint in Brand X, musically? It was probably when Kenwood Dennard joined the band, because Phil Collins was always too busy with Genesis. We started gigging and touring, and that’s when I think the band became really coherent and tight. That was a good buzz for me, to be in a band that was really doing its thing well, I thought. Your new band, MJ12, grew out of a project you had with drummer Steve Moses. I’ve known Steve for a long time. Not long after I moved to New York in the ’80s, I was in a couple of bands with him, and then we went our separate ways. I started doing some solo gigs and put Tunnels together, and Steve went off playing with Alice Donut. We got back together just a few years ago and started doing these little improv gigs in Brooklyn, just the two of us, and we’d invite guests to come and sit in. In Brooklyn there are loads of really good players, so there was never a shortage of people. We were playing in really small dive bars and DIY places. I suggested to Steve after a while that maybe we should try writing some stuff and making it a little more structured, but without losing the improv aspect. So we started writing little bits and pieces, and EQUIP Bass Customized fretless Ibanez Grooveline 5-string Amp Euphonic Audio (EA) iamp 800 combo Strings DR Strings LowRiders (.045–.125) Effects Eventide ModFactor and TimeFactor bassplayer.com / january2017 15

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