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 Chowtaâ€™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 Cobhamâ€™s Art Of the Rhythm Section Retreat in the Czech Republic. â€œItâ€™s been a journey,â€ says Fierabracci over a phone interview from his Los Angeles residence, â€œA lot of people say they donâ€™t get jazz. But when5 youâ€™re playing, youâ€™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. Youâ€™re not playing because people will like it. You canâ€™t cater to the weakest link. A jazz musician doesnâ€™t do this for money. From all the genres of music, youâ€™re probably making Â the least amount of money in jazz. Youâ€™re doing it because there is a truth in it that youâ€™re following.â€
Fierabracci, who has performed with the finest jazz musicians including Chick Corea, keyboardist Mitch Forman, drumÂmers Dave Weckl and Cobham, says that collaborations are an immersive expeÂrience for him. He says, â€œI 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. Itâ€™s easier to pick up what they want from you as an artist and only then can a conÂversation begin.â€ Besides going to a music school to study, perÂforming in a band or playing with great musicians is the best way to learn, says the bassist. â€œWhen you go to university, the good thing is youâ€™re surÂrounded by teachers, but youâ€™re also surÂrounded by students that have the same fire and really want to learn music and this helps you learn faster.â€ The bassÂist says that one of the most important tools that he picked up at music school was being able to read music. He adds, â€œI think education doesnâ€™t really mean you go to college, but you study really hard on your own. You have to find that seed withÂin you and water it. You have to find your inner voice.â€
While thereâ€™s a method to preparing for a show, Fierabracci says that there are rules up on stage. He adds, â€œYou do your arpeggios, you get all your scales togethÂer but when you play, you forget about all that and you have to react to whatâ€™s hapÂpening.â€ For jazz musicians, there are no rules in the studio either. FierabracÂci, who has been nominated twice at the Grammys in the Best Jazz Instrumental Solo category and once in the Best ConÂtemporary Jazz Album Category for his album Hemispheres, says â€œThe music is always just written in the head. The melÂody is worked out. The solos are never worked out and youâ€™ll take your time improvising. Youâ€™re waiting for something to happen.â€
As advice to students of jazz, the bassist adds that the genre can be daunting, but it is also the most exciting. He says, â€œYouâ€™re trying to explore, take a chance and come up with new sounds and new ideas â€“ they can be rhythmic or harmonic, but you have to be courageous and want to go down that line. SomeÂtimes it works and sometimes it doesnâ€™t, so you have to have a certain amount of confidence that youâ€™re gonna land on your feet and a certain amount of huÂmility that you donâ€™t know everything.â€ Thereâ€™s a simpler analogy to why he loves jazz. â€œItâ€™s like when you have the same meal every day, you get sick of it. But jazz gives you something different every single dayâ€
The article appeared in the October 2014 issuer of ROLLING STONE India.