Mike Frost

Bass Musician Magazine

Reader Submission and Video – Gratitude for My Great Teacher, Jaco by Mike Frost

Mike Shares…

In 1982, I was studying with Jerry Jemmott, and he knew I was a disciple of Jaco; he arranged for me to get some lessons with Jaco.

Jaco changed my life forever and I wanted to do a tribute to him.  www.mikefrost.co

Gratitude for my great teacher, Jaco

Like anyone that heard the opening track on Jaco’s first solo album, I was in left in awe. It seemed impossible that a bass could be played in such a fashion and more impossible that I would be ever able to play it. That has been my view for that past 35+ years.

I had recently been reflecting on the impact of Jaco on my life, the bass world and the world of music. And in my opinion, in all three cases that impact is immeasurable. It is with this awareness that I was able to realize the debt of gratitude owed for all my teachers; Jerry Jemmott, Chuck Alder, Carlos Castillo, and of course, my time studying with Jaco. Those precious hours would transform my approach to the bass and music forever. Moreover, they gave me the inspiration to make this precious art form the main route in life’s precious journey.

With all the noise and anticipation around the new Jaco documentary to be released this year, I began to reflect on that moment when many years ago I placed the Jaco Pastorius LP on the turntable and heard the opening track. Donna Lee – the ‘impossible’ made possible by Jaco. With the suggestion of a friend, I began to ponder tackling the ‘impossible’. Note by note, week by week, and month by month I strived until the end was reached. The video above is the culmination of this effort. I often imagined who was Donna Lee? That is the inspiration for the video track. Having Edwin Hamilton on congas, my main drummer these days, was a no-brainer.

The effort started in the Spring 2015 when I began listening to the track over and over to reacquaint myself with the form. I also needed to become familiar with the nuances of the track and trying out different fingerings in an attempt to capture Jaco’s inflections. It’s not 100%, but close enough for now. I can’t tell you how many times I changed it up. In fact, right up to the very video shoot I was re-thinking the lines.

After all these decades I am still in awe of this piece and of Jaco’s work in general. To think there was no track, nor Jaco, for Jaco to emulate is indeed mind boggling. I can’t imagine electric bass today without his pioneering work or imagine how he was able to single-handedly reinvent the instrument.

I will never be done with the piece. I will never master it. It will be an everlasting challenge that I may or may not pull off each time I attempt it, but it has brought me, as Jaco did, to higher ground and an even greater appreciation for the greatest bass player we have ever seen. Jaco, where ever you may be, thank you for the music, the lessons, and the inspiration. You are certainly missed by me and many.

The recording is direct. No effects, no compression. Just a preamp and then into Logic. The bass is a Clifford Roi with an ebony board, wenge and santos mahogany neck, an alder and mahogany body. The top is flamed redwood.

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Mike Frost sent us this great clip of his band performing the classic Chick Corea tune, “Armando’s Rhumba.” Taken from a performance at the Shapeshifer Lab in Brooklyn, the band is cooking with some Latin flavor.

Frost gets a warm sound from his fretless to pin the band together. “The video is showing my new Fretless Clifford Roi 4 string bass which was designed to sound like an upright bass,” he says.

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My bass superpower/claim to fame:

Soon after Anthony Jackson, I was one of the first bassists to play six-string. I teamed up with Joey and Vinnie Fodera and Chuck Alder back in 1980 to help design Fodera’s first six-string bass.

I played primarily six-string for decades, but in the last few years I’ve also been concentrating on four and five-string. I had a fretless four-string custom built to closely emulate the natural sound of an acoustic bass for straight-ahead jazz playing.

Jaco Pastorius is my bass hero and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study with him in New York in 1982.

Bass Musician Magazine

Most Embarrassing Moment on Stage: 

I was playing at the Cabaret Theater at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut with Esteban when I got the worst stomach virus that hit right as we took the stage.  I had to leave the stage every 10 minutes during the concert and toss my cookies into a garbage can just off stage.  I kept coming back and playing my bass parts, and the best part was that Esteban never noticed!  Still, I’m pretty sure you can hear my heaving in the concert recording.