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Penn Jillette and Mike Jones on “Bass Songs”

Artist's Choice playlist by the bassist/magician and pianist

Mike Jones and Penn Jillette
Mike Jones (left) and Penn Jillette (photo: Ezekiel Zabrowski)

For those of us who grew up on rock and pop, and then graduated to jazz, one of the major transitions is in the approach to the bass. Rock and pop basslines are often riff-oriented; jazz tries to find a way to keep the same groove and feel but does so while staying constantly in motion with the details. When we started playing together, both of us started listening to bass more aggressively—Penn, who was initially a rock bassist, to learn how to make that transition, and Mike, a jazz pianist, to give Penn guidance. In the process we came to identify certain songs, both jazz and non, as “bass songs.”—PENN JILLETTE AND MIKE JONES

Ray Brown with John Clayton and Christian McBride 
“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
SuperBass 2 (Telarc, 2001)
Jillette: The person that Jonesy wanted me to listen to the most, and that I had the pleasure of seeing live, was Ray Brown. (He called me “a very heavy cat,” and I’ve never forgotten it.) And to hear Ray Brown and all these jazz guys doing a pop song was a revelation to me: The way Ray Brown hears soul after being the jazz bass player, the wink and the exuberance, destroys me.

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