Alumnus from the Woody Herman and Count Basie bands shares his insights with FBPO on being a true, hard core jazz man!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
June 29, 2009
Lynn Seaton is one of the most highly regarded jazz bassists anywhere. He was the steady bass player for the Woody Herman and Count Basie big bands and has done extended tours with Tony Bennett, George Shearing, Monty Alexander and the Jeff Hamilton Trio. His freelance experience includes work with Toshiko Akiyoshi, Ernestine Anderson, Al Cohn, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Herb Ellis, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Marian McPartland, Bud Shank, Teddy Wilson and countless others.
The jazz festivals where Lynn has performed include Bern, Concord, JVC, Kool, Kyoto, Newport and North Sea. He has performed on over 100 recordings, including the Grammy-winning Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra and Grammy-nominated recordings with John Fedchock and Woody Herman.
Seaton has released several recordings as a leader, including Bassman’s Basement, Solo Flights and Puttin’ on the Ritz. He is currently Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas School of Music.
FBPO: Having played in the Woody Herman and Count Basie Orchestras, you’ve been a part of some of jazz’s most revered legacies. Those experiences must have been incredibly special and memorable.
LS: That is true. I have been living a dream for a long time. Both of those bands are unique with different styles, but both swing very hard. The dynamic contrasts and articulations really made the music come alive.
FBPO: Going from those big bands to the quieter settings of Tony Bennett and George Shearing must have required quite a shift in your bass-playing gears. Do you prefer one setting over the other?
LS: Actually, both Tony and George like a strong pulse from the bass player. Most of my gigs come from recommendations and word of mouth, but I did audition for George Shearing, based on a recommendation of Tony Bennett pianist Ralph Sharon. After we played a couple tunes, George remarked, “You’re a real Ding-Dong-Daddy!” The main difference with George is that I went from playing very few solos with the big bands to soloing on almost every tune.
FBPO: According to your website, you’ve performed in 49 out of the 50 states. That just begs the question: Which one’s left? Any plans to go there soon?
LS: I am still waiting to get to play in Alaska. I hope someone will call me soon to go there!
FBPO: Tell us about your solo recordings. Which musicians did you use? Any original compositions?
LS: On Baseman’s Basement, Lee Musiker played piano and Tim Horner played drums. On Live!!!, it is Bill Mays on piano and Tim Froncek on drums. For Puttin’ On the Ritz, I used Stephen Anderson on piano and Joel Fountain on drums. Solo Flights is just me!
There are a couple recordings that are finished and waiting to be packaged and released, either by me or by one of the labels (if anyone from a label is reading this, I’m interested in talking to you!). One is a trio recording with Stefan Karlsson on piano and Drori Mondlack on drums. The other is a live concert – with good sound! – with guitarists Dan Bruce and Tim Goyens and drummer Ross Pederson. It features the music of Emily Remler. There are some original tunes on every recording.
FBPO: So, what’s happening at University of North Texas? That place has always been a breeding ground for great jazz musicians. I assume that’s still the case?
LS: UNT is an incredible place. I am constantly inspired by the wonderful talent of the students. Many do go on to great careers as players. Every semester, I form a band with students, just for fun. We rehearse twice a week, then perform a concert later in the term. These “kids” always teach me plenty of things in return for what I show them!
FBPO: You strike me as a guy who doesn’t like to sit still. What’s going on in your career that’s got you particularly excited? What’s coming up?
LS: I still play as many gigs as possible locally, in addition to the some road gigs. I just finished my annual double bass workshop at UNT. The Jamey Aebersold and UNT Combo workshops are coming up very soon. In the fall, I’ll be headlining the Kemah Jazz Festival in Houston with a big band, playing charts written for me by Akira Sato and Dennis Mackerel. I will also be doing the Jazz Cruise in the Caribbean with an all-star band led by Ken Peplowksi. I’ll spend some time in New York in October hanging out with some jazz bass teachers to find out about what their requirements and courses of study are. The opportunity to observe their lessons and teaching styles is sure to help me stay current with my own teaching duties at UNT.
FBPO: What do you like to do that’s not necessarily musically oriented?
LS: I like to fish, read, cook and hang out with my family.