Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Anthony Chitmon Is Mr Seven Strings!

Bassist, Anthony Chitmon, also known as “Mr. Seven Strings”, plays 4, 5, and 7-string bass. He’s from San Francisco, and here’s the kicker, friends: Anthony is also a TMBG student, and member of Thunder Row! He goes by the name “tbass”, and we’re more than proud to have him with us.

Mr. Seven Strings has an album out - Something Special - and we were lucky enough to get a copy; it’s a wonderfully light Jazz collection, smooth and soulful, and even a bit funky in places! His style of making music has been compared to George Benson, Stanley Clarke, and Norman Brown.

So, let’s have a look at the music! After the review, we have a few questions for Anthony.


Album Review
Something Special - Mr Seven Strings
Genre - Jazz

When I first got the album, I played it into the open air on my phone. Just for a taste. I heard sax, keyboards, and what sounded like some stellar lead guitar. Bass is always harder to hear through a phone speaker, so I knew I wasn't getting the full deal. No problem. I just wanted to get a feel for the music as a whole.

Ahem - bear with me, because I don’t have much experience with those extended range basses. The standard tuning has that low B, and goes up by fourths to F. That kind of range could then make the upper register strings sound-- wait a minute! There was no guitar player listed in the credits. That lead guitar sound I heard was the upper register of the 7-string bass! Okay, now I really had to get the music going through speakers or headphones!

I plugged in to my speakers and there she was! The thunder from the lower end came to life with a definitive rumble. The man uses the full range of that ERB, and owns every note! The upper registers sounded richer and fuller than if it had been a lead guitar - recording the music through proper bass amplification is no doubt the reason.

The songs feature every different level of bass, layered and blended together to create delicate melodies and then dive all the way down to a massive bottom end. So I spent my first pass through the album simply enjoying all the different sounds flowing from Chitmon’s very talented fingers.

The second pass was to delve into the songs themselves. Each of the eight tracks is a buttery-smooth treat. The vocals are like icing, melting on a freshly baked cake, a sensual, warm treat. And each cake served up a different flavour of icing!

The songs wind from soulful through to upbeat, jazzy, funky, and the bass runs the show! Sax and keyboard accents are perfectly placed - Chitmon does his own arranging, so you know the songs come from his soul. All songs are Chitmon's own compositions, except for "People Make The World Go Round", which is a cover of the old Stylistics song.

01 - Inhale Exhale features tasty changes, abrupt starts and stops. This man has very fast fingers. Halfway through, the patterns change, and the vocals are airy and ethereal.

02 - People Make The World Go Round has a groovy, funky beat, with a slow, grinding bass that drives the song in slow motion. When we think of a driving beat, we think of something powerful and aggressive. This bass beat drives like a big ol’ Cadillac. I love the vocals. Not verses and choruses, but just the title repeated in soulful style. Keyboard sweeps add to the mood. The Stylistics would be proud!

03 - Roll & Rock is Jazzy with some killer sax.

04 - High School Sweetheart is a slower ballad with meaningful lyrics and some delicate keyboarding.

05 - Feeling Good is another ballad. Strummed bass over a rich bottom end. Smooth and easy feel.

06 - On The Go is a little livelier. Lots to keep the ears busy. Chitmon shows us he’s really got the goods when it comes to playing bass. His visions of tone really shine through.

07 - Play A Melody is funky. You will be tremendously impressed with the use of the upper registers of the bass in this one. Unbelievable!

08 - Timeless, the closing number, features more beautiful keyboards and sax. Chitmon on the bass rules the roost from start to finish. Very melodic number.

I stepped away from this album with a big sigh of relaxation and contentment. If Chitmon’s aim is to give us a break from the fevers of the daily world, he’s succeeded. I felt like I had just been to the spa.

Featured Musicians:
Tony Chitmon - bass
Tom Politzer - sax (tracks 2, 3, 4)
Charles McNeal - sax (track 8)
Kenny Boyd - keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Keith Johnson - vocals (tracks 2, 4)
Joy Williams - vocals (track 2)
Tami Tambora - vocals (track 2 - lead vocal on track 5)

Okay, now for the interview portion of our show. Thanks for speaking with us, Tony!

TR: Why the seven string bass? Did you start on a 4-string?

AC: I started out playing a 4-string bass, which I still love to play. From there, I went to the 5-string. It wasn't until 1997, when I was performing with a Motown revue band at the MGM casino in Las Vegas, that the band (before our performance) wanted to go to Guitar Center to pick up some things and check out some new equipment. I saw this bass that looked like a tree trunk! I said to myself, “Why would anyone want to play this instrument?” I intended to pick it up and just play with it a little bit, but as it turned out, I couldn't put it back down! It felt so natural. It was a perfect fit right from the start, because I never had to teach myself or learn how to play it. It just happened. That’s when I knew that there was a special bond between with me and the 7-string bass.

TR: Do you play any other instruments?

AC: A little drums, a little guitar, a little keys, congas, trombone.

TR: What sort of music do you like?

AC: I love to listen to all styles of music. In order to be a well-rounded musician, you have to appreciate all of the music styles out there, whether you play them or not.

TR: Who are you listening to now?

AC: I like to listen to players. Victor Wooden, Stanley Clarke, Esperanza Spalding, and so many, many more.

TR: Tell us about your musical upbringing. Lessons, self-taught?

AC: I actually started off playing a little drums, and a little guitar. Then came the bass. I was self-taught, and at some point started taking lessons for a while.

TR: Do you compose in other genres as well?  Besides Jazz?

AC: I grew up in San Francisco, listening to so many styles of music, from Jazz, Rock, Folk, Funk, Soul, Country, Motown, Disco, Classical, you name it! As a result, I've learned to write in every music style out there. It doesn't matter to me what style of music I write as long as it's good music and it brings joy to the listeners.

TR: In your opinion, what makes good Jazz?

AC: Being creative and staying on the edge of musical ideas.

TR: Tell us a bit about the songs on Something Special. In terms of inspiration, where do they come from?

AC: The first song on my CD is called "Inhale Exhale." The reason why I gave it that name is because I wanted people to feel like they just got off work on Friday to start their weekend!

TR: Just taking a breath.

AC: On their way home, I thought it would be a good song for relaxing and unwinding. And the same goes for the rest of my songs on the CD. They all have a message and the message lies in each of the song titles.

TR: How did you come to work with the guest musicians?

AC: They are good friends of mine. Some of us grew up together and some of them I met while out performing gigs.

TR: So you perform live as well?

AC: Yes, a little, but not as much as I use to because I had to raise my kids. Now that my kids are grown, I want to start doing recording sessions, perform my CD at concerts, travel regionally (and internationally), get sponsors and management, endorsements, etc.

TR: What brought you to Teach Me Bass Guitar?

AC: I was looking to tighten up my reading skills. It's been awhile with me doing on-the-spot reading session and I wanted to get a real good user friendly instructional video or video DVDs to study.

TR: Have you finished the course?

AC: Not yet.

TR: How are you progressing?

AC: It's coming along very well.

TR: How do you like Roy as a teacher?

AC: I think that Roy is the best instructor out there to date. He knows how to musically communicate to an audience of bass players. Not to mention he's one bad cat on that bass guitar!

TR: Any new projects coming out? What’s next for you?

AC: Right now I am writing songs and working on my new CD. I'm also doing shows with friends of mine and attending concerts. I hope to either land a great paying gig in the near future, or perform the songs on my CD for audience's around the world.

TR: Thanks, Anthony!

AC: Thank you so much for the interview. God Bless!

© 2014 CL Seamus for Thunder Row

Check out Something Special. Available on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, among others.

And check out Anthony Chitmon on Facebook.

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