Finding A Voice
Grammy nominated jazz bassist Ric Fierabracci will be in India this month for a short teaching camp
In 1997, the l ast time Ric Fierabracci was in India, he performed with pianist Yanni at the Taj Mahal. Most recently, he contributed to Hindi f ilm composer Sandeep Chowta’s jazz album Matters Of The Heart. On this visit to India, Fierabracci, plans to engage students of music. Fierabracci, who will conduct a five-day camp at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music near Chennai, has been teaching for over three decades at various music institutes across the world including legendary jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham’s Art Of the Rhythm Section Retreat in the Czech Republic. “It’s been a journey,” says Fierabracci over a phone interview from his Los Angeles residence, “A lot of people say they don’t get jazz. But when5 you’re playing, you’re there to play at the highest level possible. You have to play as if God is in the audience. Not everyone will like it. You’re not playing because people will like it. You can’t cater to the weakest link. A jazz musician doesn’t do this for money. From all the genres of music, you’re probably making the least amount of money in jazz. You’re doing it because there is a truth in it that you’re following.”
Fierabracci, who has performed with the finest jazz musicians including Chick Corea, keyboardist Mitch Forman, drummers Dave Weckl and Cobham, says that collaborations are an immersive experience for him. He says, “I always do my homework. Whenever I work with a new artist, I try to learn all the chord changes, I memorize everything and learn their music as well as possible. It’s easier to pick up what they want from you as an artist and only then can a conversation begin.” Besides going to a music school to study, performing in a band or playing with great musicians is the best way to learn, says the bassist. “When you go to university, the good thing is you’re surrounded by teachers, but you’re also surrounded by students that have the same fire and really want to learn music and this helps you learn faster.” The bassist says that one of the most important tools that he picked up at music school was being able to read music. He adds, “I think education doesn’t really mean you go to college, but you study really hard on your own. You have to find that seed within you and water it. You have to find your inner voice.”
While there’s a method to preparing for a show, Fierabracci says that there are rules up on stage. He adds, “You do your arpeggios, you get all your scales together but when you play, you forget about all that and you have to react to what’s happening.” For jazz musicians, there are no rules in the studio either. Fierabracci, who has been nominated twice at the Grammys in the Best Jazz Instrumental Solo category and once in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album Category for his album Hemispheres, says “The music is always just written in the head. The melody is worked out. The solos are never worked out and you’ll take your time improvising. You’re waiting for something to happen.”
As advice to students of jazz, the bassist adds that the genre can be daunting, but it is also the most exciting. He says, “You’re trying to explore, take a chance and come up with new sounds and new ideas – they can be rhythmic or harmonic, but you have to be courageous and want to go down that line. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, so you have to have a certain amount of confidence that you’re gonna land on your feet and a certain amount of humility that you don’t know everything.” There’s a simpler analogy to why he loves jazz. “It’s like when you have the same meal every day, you get sick of it. But jazz gives you something different every single day”
The article appeared in the October 2014 issuer of ROLLING STONE India.