Tag Archives: bass

Catching up with Bryan Dondero

dondero3Bassist Bryan Dondero was an original member of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals during which time he became known for both his upright and electric bass work. He played with the band from 2002 until a messy-split with the group in 2009, appearing on the band’s first three studio albums. Since his departure from the band Dondero has kept a relatively low musical profile.


Honest Tune had the chance recently to catch up with Dondero to reminisce about some of his favorite memories from his time on the road with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and to find out what is in store in the future for the bassist.



Honest Tune: When was the first time you played the bass in a live setting?

Bryan Dondero: The first time I played bass live was during my first semester at Penn State. I was eighteen-years-old at the time, and aside from a few talent shows, had never played in front of people. I was actually really new to the bass. A couple of friends of mine were forming a band and they needed a bass player. I had played guitar for a number of years, so I figured I would give it a try. My philosophy Professor loaned me his bass since he wasn’t using it. I think I learned eight or nine songs in two rehearsals with those guys, so needless to say I was really nervous. It turned out that the bar was a biker bar and the crowd was pretty rowdy. The band before us was really good too. I remember them rocking out some heavier tunes, and here we were about to get on stage to play some Dave Matthews and a few originals. I thought for sure they would eat us alive. It turned out great actually. The crowd was really supportive. It definitely helped that our drummer was a monster behind the kit and our singer had a really great voice. We played there a few more times and made a bit of a name for ourselves.


DonderoHT: When you were first starting out on the bass who were the influences you looked towards?

BD: Well, I got to break this down by upright and electric. For upright I would say Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, and Chris Wood. I am really lucky to have gotten to tour and learn some things from Chris. I was a huge Medeski Martin & Wood fan in college, so his upright and electric playing was definitely a big influence.

For electric I would have to say that John Paul Jones, Duck Dunn, and George Porter Jr are the biggies. Sharing the stage with George Porter Jr was a major highlight of my musical career too. I’ve been revisiting some of the old Zeppelin tunes recently. I absolutely love John Paul Jones’ fingerstyle, but recently I’ve been trying to emulate some of his picking style. His tone on “Heartbreaker” where he runs the bass through a Leslie is fucking amazing. It’s got such a heavy dirty sound on top of the chorus that he gets from the Leslie. It would be hard to emulate that tone with just pedals, but I am determined to find a way.


HT: You have become known for your ability to switch seamlessly from the upright to electric bass, which do you prefer?

BD: I really like playing both. I enjoy playing a lot of different styles. I can get down with some “Whiskey before Breakfast” on the upright or be just as happy rocking out some Nirvana. Both of which were recent musical ventures for me. I love playing old R&B/Soul stuff too.


HT: Is there anyone you would like to share the stage with that you have not had the opportunity to yet?dondero4

BD: There are so many great bands out there now. I love the way their bass players play, so I’d almost rather watch them side stage. As far as backing up an artist goes, I’d love to back up M. Ward or Neko Case or maybe sit in for a few with the Alabama Shakes. There are a lot of great local artists here too that I’d love to sit in with as well. It would be a blast to sit in with Madaila or Rough Francis. Those guys are so good!


HT: During your time with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals you were constantly on the road, do you have any favorite memories from that time that really stand out for you?

BD: There are so many it’s hard to single out one.Some of the festivals that we did were really amazing.  Playing acoustic jams with Jay Farrar and Shannon McNally back at our RV at Bonnaroo was areally great time.We also dragged some of the guys from My Morning Jacket back with us to theRV once. Several bottles of bourbon were going around which culminated in us doing anappropriately inebriated version of “Every Rose has its Thorn.” Who knew Poison was such aninfluence on Jim James?


HT: What have you been up to lately? Are you still playing music?

BD: Right now I am in my second year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Vermont. It’s a very different lifestyle from my days with the band, but I am really happy withwhere I am.  I still play music regularly and look forward to being done with school so that I canplay even more of it.  I’d love to get an original band together again someday too.  I’m happy just playing whenever and wherever I can.

Keller Williams : Bass

Multi-faceted artist Keller Williams releases his 17th album this month, and it stays true to his one-name-album formula, this time with the appropriately titled Bass. Keller takes the reigns as primary vocalist and bass player, and is backed by his touring reggae-funk band Kdubalicious, consisting of Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums (fellow Virginians who have worked with Keller before as members of the reggae-tinged Transmitters). Williams may be primarily known as a guitar player, but he proves here that he is no slouch on the bass either.

His playful songwriting method and signature vocals are not much different from his previous 16 releases; however this project leans more toward jazz and reggae versus the roots, bluegrass, and jam of most his other albums, and it benefits greatly by having accompanying musicians rather than his usual one-man-band projects.  Although this is not his first foray into leading a band as he has done so before on previous installments such as Keller and the Keels, Keller Williams and the WMDs, The Keller Williams Incident, etc., it still marks a progression for his ever-changing craft.

If any folks have been hesitant about getting into Keller’s music, Bass may just win them over with its accessibility and effortless flow. The airy jazz grooves heard on the excellent “The Sun and The Moon’s Vagenda” – highlighted by Starling’s melodic piano and Mark D’s rhythmic drumming – as well as the upbeat, breezy reggae of “Positive” are smooth and extremely ear-pleasing.

His lyrical wit is strong as usual, displayed on the catchy funk number “Hey Ho Jorge” (I like my funk well-done, never rare … I eat the funk), the pop-reggae tune “Super Hot” where he rants about the “hot chicks in the front row”, as well as the hilarious “I Am Elvis” (I like to snowboard naked in the morning, jump out of a helicopter and freeze my behind).

But aside from all the humorous lyrics and positive vibes, some of the best moments on this album happen when the trio shakes free from the anchor and jam, seemingly swimming together through relaxing chords shown on such songs as the soft reggae tune “High” and the jazz-fusion track “Buena”.

This album may not represent Keller’s strongest work (look to 2007’s Dream for that), but there is a certain wonderful chillness to it all. And you have to appreciate Keller’s choice to continuously try new projects with varying styles and players. His first 10 or so studio recordings were just him and looping machines, which were becoming a bit redundant and tiresome. Over the course of his last five albums he has gone in a different direction each time, which is welcome. He performs better as a band leader than a solo artist, this much is sure, and having the talents of Jay Starling and Mark D along for this ride works brilliantly.

Bass is out now on SCI Fidelity.

Keller Williams to release ‘Bass’ on December 13

On December 13, 2011, Keller Williams delivers Bass, his 17th album. Starting with 1994’s Freek, Keller has done solo albums, live albums, one with The String Cheese Incident, another with Bob Weir, Michael Franti, Bela Fleck and a bunch of other personal heroes, a bluegrass covers album with Keller & The Keels, a children’s album, a remix album, and more. Here Keller shows off, you guessed it, his bass skills with his first record that finds the multi-instrumentalist only on bass guitar.

Bass is also the first album to be recorded with Keller’s live reggae-funk band Kdubalicious. Formed in late 2010, in addition to Keller on bass and vocals, the group features Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums. Though Keller’s music, both what he listens to and what he puts out, may always be changing and evolving, there’s always one constant: his unique, playful songwriting. Bass is no different in that regard. This may be reggae music – with heavy doses of dub, funk, jazz and even bits of pop and psychedelia – but at the core, it’s a Keller Williams record, his warm voice and equally inviting attitude driving the positive vibrations.

Since Keller Williams first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, he has helped define the term independent artist. Looking at the diversity of his fall plans, you can certainly ascertain why. Look for Keller on tour through the end of the year in several of his various incarnations, including his newest collaboration – The Travelin’ McCourys Featuring Keller Williams – which debuted this fall at Magnolia Fest, Voodoo Music Festival, and others. Also recently announced, a New Year’s run: beginning December 28 at The Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina. Then on December 29 and 30 the show rolls to The National in Richmond, VA and Norfolk’s NorVa respectively, with Keller Williams on stage for one set solo and one set with his project Kdubalicious, plus very special guests The Pimps of Joytime. For New Year’s Eve, Keller & The Keels ring in 2012 at Brooklyn Performing Arts Center in Wilmington North Carolina. All four venues will also host a Keller Plays for Kids matinee performance earlier that day. Visit kellerwilliams.net for information and tickets.

The current list of confirmed dates is as follows:
Friday, November 18 Stone Pony Asbury Park NJ
Saturday, November 19 Brooklyn Bowl Brooklyn NY KIDS show
Wednesday, November 30 – Thursday, December 1 The Abbey Theatre Durango CO
Friday, December 2 El Rey Theatre Albuquerque NM
Saturday, December 3 Orpheum Theater Flagstaff AZ
Sunday, December 4 Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas NV
Thursday, December 8 Infinity Hall Norfolk CT
Friday, December 9 Pearl Street Northampton MA
Saturday, December 10 Historic Blairstown Theatre Blairstown NJ
Sunday, December 11 Sellersville Theater Sellersville PA
Wednesday, December 28 Lincoln Theatre Raleigh NC KIDS Show
Wednesday, December 28 Lincoln Theatre Raleigh NC
Thursday, December 29 The National Richmond VA KIDS show
Thursday, December 29 The National Richmond VA with The Pimps of Joytime
Friday, December 30 The Norva Norfolk VA KIDS show
Friday, December 30 The Norva Norfolk VA with The Pimps of Joytime
Saturday, December 31 Brooklyn Performing Arts Center Wilmington NC KIDS show
Saturday, December 31 Brooklyn Performing Arts Center Wilmington NC Keller and the Keels
Monday, January 9 – Saturday, January 14 Jam Cruise 10 Fort Lauderdale FL Keller and The Keels
Friday, January 13 The Abbey Bar at ABC Harrisburg PA
Saturday, January 14 Mr. Smalls Theatre Millvale PA
Tuesday, January 17 New York Guitar Festival New York NY
Thursday, January 19 Harlow’s Sacramento CA
Friday, January 20 Arcata Theatre Arcata CA
Saturday, January 21 Great American Music Hall San Francisco CA Keller Williams Plays for KIDS Matinee
Saturday, January 21 Great American Music Hall San Francisco CA
Sunday, January 22 Mystic Theatre Petaluma CA
Thursday, February 2 Coach House San Juan Capistrano CA
Friday, February 3 Belly Up Tavern Solana Beach CA
Saturday, February 4 Club Nokia @ LA Live Los Angeles CA
Friday, February 17 Ziggy’s Winston Salem NC
Wednesday, March 14 – Saturday, March 17 Jam in the ‘Dam, The Melkweg Amsterdam NE

Look for Keller Williams’ complete list of fall tour dates at kellerwilliams.net.

Victor Wooten: Mystery solved

wooten-press1.jpg Born into a family filled with musicians, it seemed obvious at an early age that Victor Wooten was destined for a career in music. 

By age five, he was playing bass with The Wooten Brothers (with Regi, Rudy, Roy and Joseph) and touring constantly throughout his native Virginia, as well as on national tours opening for Curtis Mayfield and War.  Later, after playing bass in the country show at Busch Gardens, Victor headed south, landing in Nashville.

Before moving to Nashville, Victor was introduced by a mutual friend to Bela Fleck, a meeting that would eventually lead to the formation of the one-of-a-kind jazz/bluegrass fusion group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

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