Lynn Seaton: Solo Flights Liner notes for Solo Flights (OmniTone 15002)

Jazz fans know Lynn Seaton from his quartet, as the hard swinging bassist in past editions of the Woody Herman and Count Basie orchestras, or from stints with Tony Bennett, George Shearing and Monty Alexander, among others.  Students know him as an educator, clinician and thoughtful pedagogue.  Musicians know and respect him as a skillful, professional instrumentalist.  Friends know him as a devoted husband and father, cook, punster, outdoorsman and generally fun-to-hang-with kind of guy.

A cross section of all these folks smile warmly when they think of Lynn Seaton doing his near-trademarked scat bass solos, ala Slam Stewart and Major Holley, on "Moten Swing" and during solo bass breaks on other tunes.  His humor and abandon on those solos embody both the vitality and hard-earned virtuosity which have led the bassist to be described from "exceptionally inventive" to being a "magician."  Milton "The Judge" Hinton, one of bassdom's elder statesmen, cited Lynn as one of his five favorite bassists.

You won't hear any of his marvelous scatting on this album (although there is a tasty version of "Moten Swing").  The marvels you will hear are wondrous bass flights —Solo Flights —without overdubs or edits, mostly first takes —from Lynn Seaton the composer, the interpreter, the performer, and his turn-of-the-century Czech bass.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1957, Lynn began studying classical guitar at age seven, switching to bass at age nine.  He played electric bass with neighborhood kids in a band that covered tunes they heard on the radio like "Incense and Peppermints" and "Love Potion Number Nine."  "My parents literally had a garage that literally we jammed in," recalls Lynn.

By seventh grade he was gigging with a horn band called (to the delight of their parents) "Pain in the Brass," covering Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears tunes.  In college, Lynn was constantly distracted from his pre-dental studies by music; his band Xebek also covered rock tunes, "but we played —at least once or twice per set —some really heavy blues.  You know, Chicago kind of electric blues, all of Johnny Winter or Muddy Waters," adds Lynn.

Playing more and more, hearing musicians (especially jazz musicians) who toured through the Midwest, and expanding his record collection, Lynn realized jazz was the right outlet for his need to improvise.  He holed up in a friend's garage with an upright bass and woodshedded his way to playing in local and regional jazz ensembles.  Early on, he met bassists David Friesen, John Stoll, Rufus Reid and Steve Gilmore, whom he saturated with questions on technical theory and the practicalities of being a full-time musician.

Lynn moved to Cincinnati in 1980, where his tenure in the house trio and big band of the legendary Blue Wisp Jazz Club (which regularly hosted big-name jazz musicians) served as a launching pad to the Woody Herman and Count Basie Big Bands.  Lynn currently is Assistant Professor at North Texas State University and continues to perform internationally with his own ensembles and as a sideman.

Lynn comments on the tunes:

"Improv for Aubrey" was inspired by the joyful birth of my son. He has been an unending source of wonder, love and happiness.  The greatest delight I have ever known is to be a father.

"Moten Swing" has been in my repertoire since playing it with the Blue Wisp Big Band in Cincinnati.  A few years later, we played it a lot with the Count Basie Orchestra.  It is one of my favorite vehicles for playing.  I tip my hat to the big band sound, Freddie Green and Walter Page.

"Ode to Jimi" —Jimi Hendrix is the inspiration for this improvisation.  I admire his music for its rawness and bluesy feel.  A technique called ponticello is used to alter the sound and create the effect of distortion.  The bow is drawn close to the bridge, which creates the artificial harmonics reminiscent of an amplified guitar.

"Rain" —Another alternate bowing technique called col legno ("with the wood") is used to perform this piece.  Turning the bow over and striking the strings with the wood produces the percussive effect.  It starts with random raindrops, builds to a torrent, then calms back down to where it started.

"Barcelona" —Several trips to Spain and my early study of flamenco guitar were sources for this music.  One of my early concertgoing experiences was seeing the legendary guitarist Sabicas.  It will be forever etched in my memory.  Flamenco has a passionate aggressiveness combined with an inner beauty that draws me to it.

"How High the Moon"/"Ornithology" —These chord changes have been a favorite to play on for jazzers for a long time.  The piece starts with the original melody ["How High the Moon"] played rubato, winds its way into [straight] time for the solo and ends with the melody that Charlie Parker wrote on the same changes.

"Honeysuckle Rose" —Fats Waller had a musical mastery of his instrument and a joie de vivre that is infectious.  I always enjoy exploring his music through improvisation.

On "Body and Soul" I incorporate chordal movement to accompany myself on parts of this tune. The beautiful melody and sequencing of chords make this tune an eternal joy to improvise on.

"Liltin' with Milton" is dedicated to my longtime friend Milt Hinton.  He has been in my corner well over 20 years.  He is a legend of the bass and one of my favorite people on earth. If all people would be like him we would truly achieve world peace.

A Latin groove is the setting for "Yesterdays."  It is another timeless classic that contains unlimited possibilities for improvisational explorations through its melody and chords.

"First Melody" —When clearing my mind for a pure improvisation, this melody came to me, hence the title.  It is a haunting and soul-searching journey.

"Trane's Changes" —John Coltrane had many innovations.  One of them is how he wrote and embellished chord sequences.  By moving chords up a minor third and over a fourth, new sequences were created.  This piece contains several episodes of this type.

Lynn Seaton's Solo Flights.  Time to launch into blue sky with sinewy, soaring archi, orchestrally luxuriant excursions, driving and delving improvisations and interpretations, and a lot of good, hard swingin', too.

—Frank Tafuri

[Read complete interview with Lynn Seaton.]

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