Be Prepared…

You never know when that “big gig” might open up!

By Jon Liebman
August 16, 2018

Suppose you learn that your all-time favorite music artist is looking for a bass player. Suppose further that you’ve got an inroad to this person through the connection of a close personal mutual friend. Would you be qualified for the gig? Are you prepared?

In this week’s “For Bass Players Only” interview, Elias Tona tells the story of how he got the coveted gig with guitar superstar Al Di Meola by being prepared. Obsessed with Anthony Jackson’s playing, Elias studied Jackson’s bass lines incessantly, focusing intently on every note and nuance. Eventually, he found an opportunity to perform and record Al’s music – complete with Anthony’s “acrobatic” bass lines – in a local Tampa, Florida band with longtime Di Meola percussionist Gumby Ortiz. When Al heard the recording, hiring Elias for his touring band was a no-brainer. He already knew the music inside out, so why not?

Of course there’s no guarantee that intense preparation will pay off in the way you’d like, but consider the following scenarios:

A young Marcus Miller comes to the studio for a session one day, not only ready to play, but armed with some original music “in his back pocket.” The producer ends up using one of Miller’s original tunes on the album they’re making, giving young Marcus’ fledgling career a catapulting jolt forward.

John Patitucci lands the good fortune of getting a gig with Victor Feldman in, of all places, Chick Corea’s living room! Chick likes what he hears and ends up hiring John for what’s to become a life-changing career move.

Then there’s Jeff Berlin’s unforgettable experience with Frank Zappa. Frank had given Jeff a chart to learn before an upcoming recording session. If you know anything about Zappa’s music, it’s all but totally impossible to play. But Jeff comes to the studio prepared. Or so he thinks. When the band begins playing, Frank abruptly stops the session and asks Jeff what he’s doing. “I’m playing the chart you gave me,” Jeff replies. “Let me see that,” says Frank. “Oh sorry,” he says. “I gave you the guitar part by mistake.” As it turns out, Frank likes what Jeff played better than what he originally had in mind. Today, Jeff has both parts, framed, hanging side-by-side on his wall.

And sometimes preparation comes during a “trial” period. I love the story Tim Landers tells about how he got the gig with Di Meola, many years ago. During a phone conversation, before they even met, Al tells Tim, “Bring enough clothes for two weeks, just in case it works out.”

Question to ponder: If you find yourself spending a lot of time and energy in preparing for a gig that never comes, would you still consider it a wise use of your time?

Check out my interview with Elias here.

Also see my interviews with Marcus Miller, John Patitucci, Jeff Berlin and Tim Landers.




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