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Featured Musician - January 2006

Name: Jake Kot


Instrument: Electric Bass

Early Years/Education: I started playing bass really late at the age of twenty-one. Before that I was in college and was a jock. I had a basketball scholarship to Southern Illinois University and hurt my knee. The doctor said you're done and I was devastated.

Then, my new stepbrother offered me his bass and amp so I took it. I began tinkering with it, and I tinkered for quite awhile. In my 20's I played rock n'roll and in my thirties I took it seriously.

The turning point was seeing the Mahavisnu Orchestra with John McLoughlin. The tunes were incredible and I had no idea what they were doing.

That's when I decided to find a good teacher and figure it out. I studied with Steve Rodby in Chicago (he was Pat Metheny's bassist) and in New York with Rick Laird (the original bassist for the Mahavisnu Orchestra).

I also studied jazz improvisation with a well-known saxophone player in Chicago. I can't remember his name but I transcribed Parker tunes for the bass with him for eight months.

I moved to Portland in '88 from Chicago and spent four years in New York. I originally was going to move to Los Angeles but I spent a week here in Portland with college friends and decided this would be a smarter choice for me and I don't regret it at all. When I first moved to Portland there were lots of clubs playing contemporary jazz. Now the only club I can really play in is Jimmy Mak's simply because of the volume of the band. In the 80's my band opened for Miles Davis at the old Starry Night. That was a fun gig.

Currently, I've started my own bass company. I'm working with a luthier here in Portland named David Miniwether. How it happened was David called me up and asked if he could build me an instrument in trade for lessons. I agreed and was able to watch his building process.

I'd been an endorsee for Conklin Basses for twelve years, been to all the shows, and realized David is a world-class instrument maker.

With his skill and my know-how we formed Kot Basses. I help with the design of the bass and got Bill Bartolini to create a unique pick-up for the instrument.

At last year's NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show we displayed some of the basses and Chuck Rainey (studio ace and former Steely Dan member) couldn't put it down. I also teach out of the River City Music store in Vancouver. I've taught electric bass for over twenty years.

Musical Influences: Jaco Patorius, John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Chic Corea, the Brecker Brothers, Bill Evans, etc.

Most Satisfying Experience: I was living in New York and went to a club to hear Jaco Pastorius and I got there early. There was nobody there except Jaco and his keyboard player so I got to sit and talk to them. Jaco was very hip and spoke in "jive talk." Anyhow, it just so happened to be Father's Day and I wished him a happy Father's Day and he paused and said nobody ever thinks of me as a Dad but I love my kids to death and thank you for remembering that. Then his keyboard player got up and started dinking around on his instrument and Jaco joined him on drums. (Jaco was a drummer first.) So here they are and Jaco waves at me and says come on up and play! So I picked up his bass, THE original fretless bass, and joined in. Jaco's response was "Yeah, Man!"

Favorite Recordings: "The Inner Mounting Flame" from John McLaughlin (this changed my life); "Light as a Feather" from Chic Corea; "Jaco Pastorius," the first solo album as an electric bassist from Jaco which revolutionized the instrument; "Heavy Weather" by Weather Report which is still the best contemporary CD ever done; Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez "Intuition;" John Patitucci "Heart of the Bass;" "Shadows of Light," Joni Mitchell with Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Lyle Mays, Don Alias (I often use this recording to widen the appreciation of contemporary jazz in my students.)

Discography: I've just released a new CD, "At a Glance" featuring pianist George Mitchell, tenor saxist Renato Carranto and a drummer from Los Angeles, Dave Derge. We hope to have our CD release party the first Friday in March at Jimmy Mak's. I also have a solo CD called "Don't Look Back" which includes seven originals. I plan on another future solo project that may include some pieces in a jazz and classical vein.

My CDs are available at my website www.jakekot.com .

Where Playing Currently: I'm getting ready to go to the NAMM show in Los Angeles January 19th through the 22nd.

They do a thing called "Bass Quake" and I've been invited to play. Bassists Brian Bromberg, Victor Wooten, Victor Baily and myself among others will be playing. The Jake Kot Ensemble will also be a featured band at the trade show.

I'm also waiting to get back into Jimmy Mak's club in March. I had a first Friday gig there on a continuing basis.

Gigs Coming Up: I'll be following Dee Dee Bridgewater at the Marriott on the Waterfront at the Portland Jazz Festival on Saturday, February 18.

I'm curious about the audience reaction to my band; we plan to jump pretty hard to the other side of jazz. I'll have George Mitchell on keyboards, trumpeter Paul Mazzio, Renato Carranto on tenor and Reinhardt Melz on drums.

Future Plans: I would like to do more commercial writing, perhaps start a production company. I'm excited about the future of Kot basses and will continue promoting my band.

Other Comments: There's no audience for "fusion" jazz because you can't hear that music anywhere! So-called, "smooth" jazz really hurt "fusion" in the sense that this young audience that hasn't heard anything is told that both are contemporary jazz.

They figure that Kenny G. and company is all there is. They have no idea that Chic Corea is in the book or that the Brecker Brothers or Weather Report are all contemporary jazz.

The music industry is now very "corporate;" nobody wants to take a chance. This attitude has now filtered down to my level. As a teacher I don't have any fiery twenty year olds who have a burning desire to play the electric bass. My student population has diminished in the last few years; there are fewer kids who want to be musicians.

According to "JD" from Jimmy Mak's jazz club: "This is the finest fusion band you'll ever hear!"

I'm sorry to say that among club owners, the reputation of jazz listeners is that we sometimes "nurse" a drink for quite a long time. Let's resolve to counter that impression and show our support!

It will be a great 2006 for jazz - I'm looking forward to being a part of it as a more active listener. I hope to see you there!

-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon