Herbie Hancock pays tribute to innovative Headhunters bass guitarist Paul Jackson who has died

We lost another great musician. Paul Jackson played electric bass like no one else. He could create a new bass line on every tune every night. No one else could do that! It came from his jazz background. It was part of his genius. Safe travels to …

Published: 19 Mar 2021. Updated: 7 months.

Tweeting: ''We lost another great musician. Paul Jackson played electric bass like no one else. He could create a new bass line on every tune every night. No one else could do that! It came from his jazz background. It was part of his genius. Safe travels to your next life, Paul.'' Herbie Hancock has paid tribute to The Headhunters bass guitarist and co-writer of Herbie classic 'Chameleon.'

The bassist, vocalist, composer-arranger, producer and educator, Jackson, who was 73, was a “musician’s musician.” According to the No Treble website he passed away at his home in Japan. No cause of death is known.

A founding member of Herbie Hancock’s The Headhunters, the bass guitarist's creative output shaped a new direction in contemporary music. He was in his time one of the world’s most important and influential electric bassists – certainly one of the most studied and copied – and generations of bass players around the globe have been inspired by his signature infectious grooves.

With Herbie Hancock in the 1970s and 80s Jackson appeared on such seminal jazz-funk albums as Headhunters and Thrust receiving one of his Grammy nominations for co-writing ‘Chameleon’. Jackson also featured on Secrets, VSOP, and Sunlight among other Hancock albums. In more recent years the Oakland, California-born player appeared with the reformed Headhunters band and has recorded his own solo albums. Check out Jackson's Groove or Die issued by Michael Janisch's Whirlwind label in 2014. RIP

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Stephan Thelen, Fractal Guitar 2 ****

Prog is a huge area and while its levels of technical virtuosity often is the match of that required by top jazz releases does not always share a lot in common with the essence of jazz. Why? Well it often prefers the language of rock as one input …

Published: 19 Mar 2021. Updated: 7 months.

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Prog is a huge area and while its levels of technical virtuosity often is the match of that required by top jazz releases does not always share a lot in common with the essence of jazz.

Why? Well it often prefers the language of rock as one input far more than a lot of jazz and even ''jazz-rock'' in a classic sense certainly sounds very different to it. Prog heroes are prog heroes, a different global crew hewn from mountains and geetar myth usually. Its villains… you get the idea. Its methods, when it comes to improvisational endeavour have a different slant: usually the shape of the improvisations (where they exist and they often do in some quantity) is very different. However, a lot of prog does cross over or in its hybrid form can seem anomalous to classic prog which has very little in common with jazz.

And so to Moonjune, issuing label here. Like Giacomo Bruzzo's RareNoise this plucky indie is steeped in prog although RareNoise are ''rarely'' predictable and for vast swathes of its input have relied on house organist Jamie Saft. Unlike RareNoise Moonjune is more devoted to prog, and often its cosmic and space rock type strands, and also to where prog crosses into jazz. It is even regarded as a jazz label. Go figure. Full declaration a lot of Moonjune's releases leave me cold. However MJ do come up with the goods sometimes, for instance Music Of Our Times by Gary Husband and Markus Reuter last year was excellent. Read about that record here.

Rambling over, that's what listening to extensive soloing does to you, and at last to Fractal Guitar 2 by Stephan Thelen (who actually crops up on a recent RareNoise release World Dialogue referred to here). Why then is Thelan's record so very fine as is clear instinctively? Because above all it has a loose feel (conjured fundamentally by the Baertschian Andi Pupato on percussion and Andy Brugger on drums); and it is dotted with some incredible soloing for instance on 'Mercury Transit' especially. Very much a guitar record and with quite a cast, doh ''guitar'' is in the title, Thelan avoids the worst excesses of prog, which are usually overblown, preposterous, grandiosity, and favours more nuanced band interplay. But make no mistake this is still male-maximalist.

Fractal Guitar 2 is not at all ''spacey'' in a floaty ambient sense. There is lots of great harmonic detail and the guitar playing has a narrative complexity that if it were a novel might have a dozen sideplots that fascinate by themselves. Henry Kaiser makes a big input on 'Ladder to the Stars' in this regard on what is a magnificent track. A lot of readers will turn to the David Torn passages and 'Point of Inflection' at the end especially and why not? It has a certain edge to it that again makes the album leap out of the speakers as it eventually delves into Pink Floyd territory.

To wrap – prog is a huge area and yes it does have different methods. Fractal Guitar 2, the prog Boswell John ''Dave'' Kelman no less noted that the first in this series was ''a true guitar masterpiece of the new millennium,'' does things to the mind and body in an ultimately very pleasurable manner indeed. Must dash: lots of octopus air guitar coming on. SG

Out now. Stephan Thelen, top