Writer, educator and bass “chameleon” tells FBPO about his books and DVDs, as well as his rekindled interest in different styles of music!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
June 22, 2009
Ed Friedland has done just about everything imaginable as a bassist. An accomplished player on both electric and upright, Ed is also a writer, educator and “bass chameleon,” lending his taste and musicality to just about every style you can think of (and maybe a few you can’t). Amidst his typical flurry of activity, Ed managed to find time to talk to us about his life and career, which are quite diverse and include a few surprises.
FBPO: You’re always busy doing … something! Are you doing anything special these days that’s got you particularly excited?
EF: Lots of things going on right now, Jon, and thanks for asking me to be interviewed. It’s always fun to be on the other side of the fence!
I’ve got another book in the works for Hal Leonard on Pentatonic Scales. It’s going to be partly oriented toward helping rock bass players figure out how to use them to create bass parts and partly for jazz players to unlock the whole modern “Coltrane” approach to pentatonics. I’ve been having fun with the gear reviewing, too. I’m learning more about video production and getting to play lots of cool basses. I’m also playing in a rock power trio with a guy named Phil Brown, doing tunes from his CD “The Jimi Project.” It’s a blast playing rock bass! It’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Playing loud rules!
In the last 5 years I’ve drifted a bit from my old paradigm of being a jazz musician. I’ve been playing less and less jazz, and more country, rock, blues, R&B, salsa and swing music. Frankly, I find it more fun and challenging—jazz players are used to having so much freedom that it actually becomes more of a challenge to play within the restrictions each style places on you. I find that really rewarding. Playing a lot of notes is the easy way to impress someone. Now I try to do it with half notes (except in my product demos, where I feel a certain obligation to be flashy!).
FBPO: Throughout the course of your career, you’ve done so many different things — you’ve been active as a player (both upright and electric), you’ve toured, you’ve written articles, you’ve reviewed equipment and you’ve been quite a prolific author of books — and you’ve done them all exceedingly well. What would you say your focus is regarding your career as a musician/bass player? Do you have one?
EF: Thanks, Jon. As a bass player, my main focus has always been to get in there and make the groove happen. I want to connect with the rhythm and make it breathe. Even though I might be playing only quarter notes, I get inside them and try to add the life force. My goal is to listen to the music in a holistic way, like an audience member, and then play what sounds right. Sometimes, it’s a truly selfless act. It’s not about the bass, or yourself; it’s about the music.
FBPO: The passion you demonstrate in everything you do is palpable. How did that come about? Can you identify a particular incident that really tripped your trigger and got you excited about being a bass player?
EF: I played guitar first, like a lot of bass players, and started studying classical upright at 13. In high school I got interested in jazz—Marcus Miller was the bass player for the school jazz band, so… he definitely captured my interest! I was getting tired of the guitar. I don’t think I had “guitar player attitude” and seeing Marcus play was a revelation. The bass was just starting to come out of the shadows, with players like Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Alphonso Johnson… and I realized that my years of classical training, combined with being a blues guitar player, were a great starting point for getting into jazz bass. My earliest experiences playing jazz in high school were so much fun. It felt like I had discovered something special. I never looked back, though I still play guitar on the CDs that come with my books.
FBPO: What do you like to do that’s not musically oriented?
EF: I play the drums! (kidding). I mean, drums are musical, but not the way I play them! Truthfully, I feel like I should broaden my interests a little. I seem to be a little too focused on music and bass. My wife and like to drive around back roads and find little towns, check out antique stores, look for home-style cafes with great pie or chicken fried steak, or go in search of the best Texas BBQ.
FBPO: So what’s next for Ed Friedland?
EF: After this book is finished, I’m going to be producing video lessons from home for guitarinstructor.com. I feel like my home production quality is finally good enough for that market. It’s really about the content anyway, not the fancy graphics. So that’s an exciting prospect. I’m just digging living in Austin, staying open to life’s possibilities and enjoying the ride.