For nearly two decades, bassist/composer/producer/educator Gerald Veasley has enjoyed a stellar reputation not only among jazz fans but among his fellow performers, thanks to six dynamic studio recordings. For all of his success and acclaim, though, he has never released an album that captures the electrifying funk and melodic magic of his live shows ... until now.
Gerald Veasley at the Jazz Base provides a unique window into the flip side of this compelling artist’s creative identity, the one that emerges every time he takes the stage. And what better stage to record his first live album than the one at his own club, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base? This intimate, in-the-round style nightclub in Reading, Pennsylvania, serves as a performance center and creative laboratory for Veasley and other top jazz talent to work their musical miracles in front of an audience. The Jazz Base has become a vital performance hub for the annual Berks Jazz Fest, where Veasley performs and also leads his annual Bass Boot Camp for musicians seeking to perfect their craft.
On two successive evenings in November 2004, Veasley and his band took the stage in these familiar surroundings to perform fan favorites from his catalog. Throughout the performances, Veasley and his band created a palpable vibe, a synergy of sound optimized by the 150-seat club’s intimate atmosphere. The resulting recording is soul satisfying.
"Songs evolve over time," says Veasley. "The songs are different now, and a lot of that is the result of taking them on the road over the years and playing them for people. The energy you get from the audiences allows you to experiment with the songs, and that experimentation leads to new arrangements."
Anyone who has witnessed a Gerald Veasley performance is aware of the energy, emotion and power his music holds. Veasley’s band features long time collaborator Chris Farr on saxophones, Eric Green on drums and Pete Kuzma on organ, all three of whom are currently on tour with Jill Scott. The band also spotlights vocalist/keyboardist Will Brock, fresh from releasing his own project, and former Alicia Keys’ percussionist Pablo Batista. "There were some songs that the new guys weren’t even familiar with," says Veasley. "So they could bring a fresh take to them. We could rearrange songs to fit the new character of the band. We tried to do that with just about every tune on the record."
Gerald Veasley at the Jazz Base also includes two brand new songs written by Veasley and recorded in the studio. One is "Celebrating Sipho," a Capetown-flavored tune penned in memory of the late South African bassist Sipho Gumede, one of the giants of jazz bass who died of cancer in July 2004 at the height of his career. Gerald says, "Sipho and I had talked about working together on a recording, but we never got the opportunity. This is my way of celebrating his life."
The other new tune is "Sugar Time," a freewheeling romp that Veasley named for its updated juke joint vibe. "I try to be this modern guy, but I think, in my heart, I’m this blues guy in a lot of ways," he says. "That’s what I grew up listening to – blues and gospel. The blues is the mother of all this American music. From the most sophisticated jazz to the most uplifting gospel, you can find the blues in there. ‘Sugar Time’ encapsulates that spirit."
More than just a collection of live renditions of studio recordings, Gerald Veasley at the Jazz Base reinterprets the decade-long oeuvre of a highly talented bassist and presents it in a way that is certain to be eye- and ear-opening for longtime fans and newcomers alike. "It’s sort of a snapshot of where I am in my career as a musician, and where the band is," says Veasley. "That’s where this record fits into my overall body of work. Sometimes we assume that everybody knows what we do just from the recordings, and we have to realize that the studio recordings – although they may be excellent – don’t show as much as we’d like. But here’s a record that does that. At the Jazz Base is a complete picture of where we are right now."