Written by: Jason Raso
Influences are like parachutes. You hope they open up and allow you to land on your own two feet. If not, well, you know how that goes! Many players have been crushed under the weight of their influences.
Billy Sheehan was my first major influence on bass. I adored his playing with David Lee Roth and Mr. Big. He made me realize that bass didn’t have to be a “background” instrument. I learned everything I could from him. I watched his instructional videos over and over again, grabbing every little bit of information I could. To my surprise, it worked! I started to sound an awful lot like Billy Sheehan. People would even tell me, “Hey, you sound an awful lot like Billy Sheehan.” This was cool for a while – that is until I came to a profound realization. I’m not Billy Sheehan! I wanted to be Jason Raso. It was time to move on.
My next big influence was Jaco Pastorius. His style was overwhelming. Jaco was like a great singer with a very distinctive voice. Once again, I learned everything I could. And, to my surprise, it worked again! Except this time people said, “You kind of sound like Jaco!” As it turned out, I couldn’t totally escape my “Sheehan-isms.”
Next up was Marcus Miller. “You can play the melody on bass? This guy is crazy!” Marcus had a huge impact on me as a musician. Not only was he a serious bass player; he was an accomplished a writer and producer. He was my gateway to Miles Davis. In turn, Miles led me through pretty much all of jazz history. This time, people said, “I can hear some Marcus in there.” Jaco and Sheehan were still present.
I’ve had so many great influences over the years – Stuart Hamm, Randy Coven, Michael Manring, Alain Caron, Rocco Prestia, Paul Chambers, Flea, Doug Wimbish, Victor Wooten, James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Charles Mingus, Stanley Clarke, Les Claypool, Gary Willis, Christian McBride, and Geddy Lee to name just a few. Not to mention all the guitar players, pianists, horn players, drummers and vocalists that have impacted me. Prince, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, Duke Ellington, Scott Henderson, Paul Gilbert, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Grant Green, and Herbie Hancock are just a few more of the many artists that continue to inspire me.
I’m sure you are aware of many of the names I listed above.; however, there are many bass players you may not know that have also influenced me. I owe a huge debt to all the great bass players I grew up watching in my own city. These players were always more than willing to answer my questions and encouraged me to keep practicing. I would especially like to thank Mike Duncan and Mike Campagnolo. These two great players were a huge influence during my formative years.
As time went on, I started to notice that with every new influence I started to sound less like my previous influences and more like, well, Jason Raso! I grabbed only the things I thought could enhance my own music. I was no longer under the influence; I was over it. I am not sure if I have completely realized my own voice on the bass yet, but if not feeling weighed down by my influences is a good sign, then I am certainly on the right track. I’ve pulled the cord and my parachute is wide open!
Jason Raso is a professional bassist from Guelph, ON. His album, Slingshot, is available at www.jasonrasomusic.com. Jason maintains a busy teaching and gigging schedule and is endorsed by Spector Basses and TC Electronic Bass Amplifiers.
Check out Jason's New Book at www.musicbooksplus.com