Jason Raso Interview

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Jason Raso is a bassist, composer and educator from Guelph, Ontario.  I can’t remember when I first came across the name.  It might have been through the videos he’s done with Ultimate Basses in Guelph.  He and Dave, the owner of Ultimate Basses, will test my Fodera dream basses and share the experience on video.

I admire what he is creating for himself.  He’s writing music and releasing records on his own label Moped Records.  He’s putting together shows at venues like the River Run Centre in Guelph as well as reaching out and playing with some of the heavy hitters in Toronto.   I picked up his most recent record Slingshot as well as a Moped Records T-shirt and asked Jason if he’d be open to answering a few questions.   Here’s the result of that mail exchange.

The-Jason-Raso-Quartet-SlingshotDo you come from a musical family?  If yes, who played which instrument?  Mom and Dad musical?  If parents not musical where did you start?  The reason I ask is that I’m the first musician in my family as far as I know.  Having everyone sing Happy Birthday can be awful.

My parents are not musicians but they certainly love music. My two brothers are also musicians (guitar and drums). Music was always playing in the house. My older brother started on guitar and we all followed suit. My parents were and continue to be very supportive.
What music did you listen to as a teenager?  What was the album/musician that stopped you in your tracks and changed your outlook on music.  For me it was Level 42 and Mark King.


As a teenager I mostly listened to rock music. I loved Sabbath, Kiss, Van Halen, and Mr. Big. Billy Sheehan was my favourite player. It was really Bass Player Magazine that changed my outlook. I kept reading about all these players and started checking out their music. After hearing players like Jaco, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten I knew I wanted to head in that direction.


I read somewhere that not long ago you reached a point where you were unhappy with your progress as a musician and you decided to make a change.  Can you outline your process/practice to get you where you are today?


For me, the big change occurred when my daughter was born. I realized I wasn’t working as hard as I should have been. I decided to take my jazz studies more seriously. I feel it’s important to have a solid practice routine. I also keep a practice log to track my progress. I’ve been keeping a log for the last six years and it has been a huge help.


What is your practice routine like these days?  What are you working on?  


These days my practice routine revolves around my repertoire. I spend a lot of time walking on chord changes and solo concepts, but I always try to tie to the material I will be playing live. This works for technique too. For example, this past summer we performed the music of Miles Davis’ Tutu at the Barrie Jazz Festival. It was a great opportunity to brush up on my slap chops. Overall, if I can tie a concept to repertoire it tends to be more useful.


Your hometown of Guelph seems to be a very active city in its support of live music and improvisational/jazz music in particular.  Why it that?  


We have a great jazz community here in Guelph. I’m not sure how it happened really. We have some great players in town. I’m lucky to have three monster players in my band. Brent Rowan on saxophone, Adam Bowman on drums and Thomas Hammerton on keys. We also have a world class jazz festival, which helps! The best part is that it really is a community. We’re all friends and support each others music.


How do you approach writing your music?  Melody first and add harmony?  Do you write on guitar or keyboard?  Is it a collaborative effort with the band? 


My writing is a mixed bag. Quite often I write on guitar. Sometimes a chord progression comes first. Sometimes it’s the melody first, or the bass line. Once a piece is written I definitely rely on the band for input for the arrangement. It’s great having Brent and Thomas around for suggestions on the harmony, and Adam is a first rate arranger and has great rhythmic ideas.


Can you tell me about your signal chain on the new record.  I’m a J bass guy as well and you really captured that sound perfectly.  DI?  Preamp?  TC head?  You also get some great tones with effects pedals.  What are you using?  Octaver? Reverb?  Filter?  


My signal chain for Slingshot was quite simple. I used my TC RH450 head direct for the entire recording. I also recorded a DI track and blended the two signals.
Effects wise, I used a TC Flashback Delay, an MXR Bass Octave and a EH Q-Tron.


Why start your Label Moped Records?  


I started Moped Records in 2005. The label is really designed to release my original music. My albums “Detour”, “An Abominable Christmas”, “Groovespeak” and “Slingshot” have all been released on Moped. This year we also got into the t-shirt market with a great design by Dave Peleschak at Jimmi Changa Productions. Hopefully, down the road I can sign some other artists.


 Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?  
 I hope to continue on the same path. I love playing and teaching. I have lots of music left in me. I’d like to release an album every year or two.


Thanks Jason for taking the time to answer the questions.  I’m always interested in what makes other musicians tick.   You can find out more about Jason at www.jasonrasomusic.com


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