Friday, July 24, 2009
The Incomparable Foley On... Lead Bass?
Miles Davis loved guitar players.
And the ones that have passed through his ranks during his 'Electric' period reads like a Who's Who -- Sonny Sharrock, John McLaughlin, Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey, Barry Finnerty, Robben Ford, Mike Stern and John Scofield.
Miles also loved Hendrix and he would often admonish his 6-stringed axemen to "Turn it up and play like Jimi, or don't play at all!"
But in the last incarnation of his electric lineup he actually didn't have a guitar player in his band. At least not in the traditional sense.
Enter piccolo bassist Joseph McCreary aka 'Foley'.
With bassist Benny Rietveld holding down the bottom-end, Miles effectively deployed Foley in the capacity of 'lead bassist', a role he was more than comfortable with.
But at the height of his visibility with the Miles Davis group, he often wrangled with the media who sometimes referred to him as a '4-string guitarist'.
And no wonder. With a 34" scale, 4-string instrument tuned an octave higher than a regular bass and armed with a pick and a Floyd Rose tremelo, Foley attacked the instrument like a guitarist, spinning jazz and rock inflected lines with a creamy distorted tone. Not limited to being mere 'lead bass' hero, equally captivating were Foley's creative chordal textures and funk guitar-type rhythms.
These days, Foley has reverted to more conventional bass-playing but, like the man, his current music is anything but traditional.