Jeremy Yanowitz, Bassist
Interview by Laura Sutherland
High school Junior Jeremy Yanowitz started playing bass on a half-size Fender while he was in elementary school and developed an early love for funk bass lines. He moved onto fusion and jazz and now helps anchor the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band rhythm section with his bass grooves. A few years ago when he realized he needed a fretless bass, he did some research, borrowed some tools and built one!
We chatted with him briefly.
1. When did you start playing bass?
It was some birthday – 6, 7, 8 – somewhere around there and my dad got me a little tiny bass junior and signed me up for lessons with the local teacher. It was actually a Fender precision bass junior, which is a half-size electric bass. I started out playing simple rock and roll and classical pieces on electric bass and then I played funk and really loved it. Then from funk I started listening to fusion and then jazz and realized this is what I want to play.
2. I hear you built your own bass – how did that happen?
Since I’ve been playing bass for a long time, I’ve gotten a small collection of instruments to play and I realized that I needed a fretless electric bass. I looked around and realized that I could spend $2,000 and buy one, or I could make one tailored to my needs. I did three months of research and put it together. My dad is an engineer and has a really good shop so he had quite a few of the tools I needed and the rest I borrowed. It’s my favorite bass and I play it more on fusiony and faster bass tunes, like a Cedar Walton tune called “Charm Circle” that we play in the Honor Band and another piece called “Upward Concavity” by band director, Eddie Mendenhall’s daughter Kanoa.
3. What’s on your playlist this week?
I just listened to the “Familiar Fields” album by the Hristo Vitchev Quartet — my bass teacher Dan Robbins plays on that album. I’m also listening to Christian McBride’s new album “Out Here” and Pat Metheny’s “Unity Group” record. Outside of jazz I’ve been listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin lately and Blues Traveler.
4. What jazz player would you most like to have dinner with?
Christian McBride – I love the music he plays and I love listening to his walking basslines – they’re lyrical and melodic and I’d like to learn how to structure them the way he does. I would also love to sit down and have a tone discussion with Stanley Clarke to find out how he shapes his sound – it’s really cool how his bass sounds.
If I could pick one more, I’d like to talk with Chick Corea’s old bass player John Patitucci, who played on his acoustic band album and has played with all kinds of people. I’d love to talk to him about playing with so many different musicians with different styles.
5. How has playing in the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band helped you?
Its fun! It’s really fun playing with people who are as determined to play as I am. It’s great being in a band with such a high skill level… and it’s challenged me to become a better player.
6. Has your experience playing jazz influenced your thoughts on where you might like to attend college?
I am probably going to go to college and get an aeronautical engineering degree and I’d like to minor in music. So I’m looking around at schools that would offer both. I’m looking around the country and right now CU Boulder looks good because it has a good aerospace program, you can minor in music and it’s close to the ski slopes! But other schools interest me, too.
7. What other things do you like to do?
Music takes up a lot of my time, but I also like to surf and I go visit my grandparents in Utah and ski there.
Photo Credits: r.r. jones