Artists You Should Know: Jamie Ousley

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A few years ago, I received a cd by a bass player I’d never heard of:  An artist named Jamie Ousley, and the cd was called O Sorriso Dela.  It was a really solid album.  And so I remembered Jamie when I received his new cd, A Sea of Voices.  For a bassist that keeps a lower profile than big guys like, say Ron Carter or Charlie Haden, Jamie Ousley really stands out, above the pack:  big sound, perfect intonation, even when bowing (very, very tough on the contrabass), and stunning technique.

Bass players get no respect.  You perhaps have heard the joke:  a couple walks into a couples’ therapist office, complaining that they never talked to each other.  The therapists, over a few visits, tries everything—to no avail.  Finally he tells them to just go to a jazz club.  They have no idea why their therapist is suggesting that, but since they, too, are at the end of their tether, they go.  They sit, drink and listen quietly.  But just when the bass player starts to solo, voilá!!! They start talking!!!!

I am partial to the big, warm, deep sound of the upright bass.  Watching the bassist play it, arms wrapped around the tall neck and feeling the vibrations resonate against the player’s body, it’s almost like embracing a lover.  Musicians follow bass lines and bass players very carefully.  It is the bottom, the pulse.  Joe Zawinul told me once that bass players were of paramount importance in his bands:  that’s why Jaco Pastorius and later Richard Bona were part of Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate.  Yet they are the part of the band most listeners are first to ignore.  For this reason, I was thrilled to see Esperanza Spalding win a Grammy for the coveted “Best New Artist” category last year.

Listen to Jamie (below @ red arrow)  as he tackles the old American chestnut, “Shenandoah”, in a duet with a phenomenal young Japanese singer, Nanami Morikawa.  Her photo is on upper right.   Prepare to be smitten, just like me.[audio:|titles=04 Shenandoah 1]