Sunday, January 28, 2018

Partners in Crime: A Nod to my Brother Bassists

It's been close to six weeks since my last gig and while I wait patiently for my leg to heal up I am also looking forward to my musical future. While I am anxious to finally have a chance to do some of the things I have planned I am just as excited for the uncertainties that await me. The reason for that is because in the past those unknowns usually led to meeting some amazing musicians who made their mark on my life as they were not only a joy to play with but also people who taught me more than they could ever know.

In reflecting on such an idea I must say that I think a lot about some amazing bassists I had the pleasure to work with these past few years. Aside from the musical bond we created by working as the rhythm section there is that personal connection that is almost unbreakable. In fact, it has been my bass brothers who have checked in on me the most during this time of rest and recuperation so I thought I would return the favor by taking some time to give them the nod that they deserve.

AJ Gonzales

My most recent rhythm section partner is someone I go way back with. We have worked with each other in various bands as well as in the studio off and on for close to ten years so any time we have a chance to get together we know it's going to be a good time because we are very familiar with each other's style.

Aside from being a great bass player AJ is also a singer and a songwriter so he is very song friendly when it comes to playing bass lines that fit what the song needs. Sound wise he has this awesome Fender bass that I nicknamed the Soul Sista because it has this bottom end that makes my bass drum really happy. For the past year we had the chance to lock in together at so many gigs and it is something I really miss right now. The last couple of months were really special because there were times we would just look at each other onstage and know exactly what to play. At the end of such songs we would just smile and say, "Yeah, I felt that."

Backstage with AJ
One thing I also appreciate is that he is very attentive to dynamics and textures so he is never shy about telling me when I may be pounding a little too hard or if I need to approach something in a more musical way.  Then we would hit the stage again and once we nailed whatever it was that we had to adjust we smile and nod in order to pat each other on the back because for us it's always about being a team.

I miss grooving with him but we both know that something will come up in the future that will allow us to play together again.

Thomas Charbonneau

For about five years I had the chance to groove along with this brother of mine in a couple of different bands. His technique was downright frightening at times but his humility always made him approachable and easy to talk to.  Then there was his sense of humor that made me want to hang with him as much as possible because I knew that I would be laughing both loudly and often.

His tone filled every room we played in and since it had such a big sound I had to pay more attention to the sound of my bass drum to make sure it was on par with the power that Big T brought to the table. Our grooves were always very precise because Thomas has a very active and intelligent musical mind that knew how to pick a song apart. It was actually a great exercise for me to work with him because his extensive musical vocabulary made me access a lot of the music education I learned over the years as our communication went beyond just humming parts to each other. He definitely kept me on my toes.

Thomas was also very protective of me because, as he would always say, "We are a team." I always appreciated that because if I was not on my "A" game he was more concerned about my well being than resentful of the fact that I wasn't perfect that night. In other words, it was never about his ego because it was about the band sounding great and not how he looked or sounded on stage.

Recently he moved to Florida and while I really miss him we are still in touch and always will be. That is because our bond in unbreakable to the point where I believe we will get the chance to play together somewhere down the road.

With Thomas and Peter
Peter Gorritz 

While I didn't get a chance to play with Peter as long as I would have liked to we did have a chance to perform several gigs together. These gigs were fun because Peter loved to perform and was always the most visual member onstage.His energy brought more out of me and while I am not the most visual performer out there it still made me take my energy up a notch.

He always fascinated me because he had this ability to really pound his bass when the groove had to be strong, which was great for me because I would have to match his presence with more power from my bass drum. Then he had this way of moving around the fret board in the most gentle way where I would back off on the bass drum in order to give him the room he needed. During those moments I usually did more cymbal work in order to add a light texture to his beautiful bass runs. I always enjoyed it when we had a chance to go in both directions in the same song because that gave us a chance to showcase our dynamics as a rhythm section.

This contrast in his playing led me to give him the nickname of Delicate Danger, which he liked a lot. Plus, I also think the nickname described him well as a person because you'd see this guy walk in the room that was dressed in black with a a Mohawk...who was also the nicest guy in the room.

One day I'm going to find myself onstage with him again and hopefully it will be in a situation where we can blow off some steam because I know that the two of us have a lot more to explore together.

Michael Young

Recently I had a chance to reunite with an original band from my college days when the Blue Note Ritual reunited to record an EP (yes, it's coming out soon).  It was a 22 year gap from the time of our last show in the Southern California area to the rehearsal we had in my living room here in the Arizona desert. This was a great surprise to me because we all now live large distances from each other but found a way to come together to finish a project that we never completed back in the day.

Post-rehearsal with Michael
Michael was the greatest rhythm section partner I had during my time in the Los Angeles music scene. He pushed me in ways that I had never been pushed before because while the music we played was already intense it was Michael's style of playing bass that brought so much to the sound of the band. I always had to be at my best just to keep up with him and that included those moments when we worked on new music because he has such an extensive rhythmic vocabulary.

Having a chance to play music with him again was a blessing and I can only hope that our band is able to maintain some time of working schedule to allow us to work on some new music real soon. I love the way he hears other rhythmic patterns within the grooves that we play and then he'll push me to add even more to my parts in order to further orchestrate what we are doing. For years we always called him The Funkster because the brother has some serious soul. So you can imagine how awesome it is for a drummer to be able to throw down with him.

Alex Quinonez 

Some gigs just don't last long enough and unfortunately that happened to me a couple of years ago when I played in a Rock band for a brief period. Thankfully I am still good friends with two guys from that band with one of them being bassist Alex Quinonez. Our bond really started at the first rehearsal as we had both showed up prepared and ready to lay down the groove. One of the first things he said to me was, You and I are going to be practically married. And he was right.

With Alex after rehearsal
Even though the band only did a handful of gigs I am proud to say that Alex and I did our part to make sure the music was spot on. In fact, many people commented that we were the two best musicians in the band. While we appreciated that it came from hard work and a constant communication between the two of us. I had a blast playing with him because he was a solid bassist who kicked the groove hard. It didn't matter if it was a straight ahead beat, a shuffle, a ballad or an uptempo rocker. I knew that Alex would be wherever I was and that gave both of us a lot of comfort.

We also connected so much on a personal level from our common faith life to the way we see the world. Once I got to know him in that way I was not surprised that we connected so well on  a musical level because we had so much in common as people. I really miss playing with him and hope something will come up in the future that will give us a chance to throw down some beats again.


Anyone who has ever played in a band knows of the bond that you create with those you work with. The longer the group stays together the stronger the bond but even within each group there are those little circles that are formed based on everyone's job within the group. For me it's always been about the beat so bass players are the ones I have usually created these bonds with.

It's true that maybe we aren't seen as much onstage as the rest of the band. Maybe you don't even know our names. But, if you're dancing, if you're tapping your foot or just nodding your head to the beat then you do know us more than you realize.

Thank you brothers for allowing me to groove with you.

Carlos Solorzano

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