Interview - Vicente Archer - August 2009
JI: Vicente, there are a few amazing bassist stories around these days, like Esperanza switching from violin and making her fast ascension to the top, but you did it in one year!! How did this happen? Were you practicing in your mind for some years? Did you shed 20 hours a day? Talk about when the switch happened and the one or two years following.
VA: I started out playing jazz guitar and attended the New England Conservatory of Music for one year. One day I decided to buy a bass a friend was selling, just for the fun it. I had figured out quite a bit by myself before I took a couple of lessons to refine some of the technical issues. Some technical concepts from the guitar I applied to the bass worked even though it was from a different family. I already knew how to improvise and play on changes and it wasn’t long for me to get the bass lines down. I did play a lot with friends and we had sessions at our house quite frequently. After 8 months I got my first gig with Donald Harrison. That made me shed even more when I had down time from business school. I wasn’t ready to play at that level but being in a pressured situation I was getting better every week.
JI: Can you talk about how playing with influential artists like Kenny Garrett, Terence Blanchard, Tom Harrell, Freddie Hubbard, Deborah Cox, Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller, Mark Whitfield, Roy Haynes, Geri Allen, Stanley Jordan, Karrin Allyson, Stefon Harris, Janis Siegel, Lewis Nash, Mingus Big Band, and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, among many others, has affected you? Any stories or words of wisdom from them?
VA: Be yourself and do not try to play like what you think they want to hear.
JI: What is new and coming up?
VA: Robert Glasper has a new recording coming out at the end of August called Double Booked on Blue Note. It features the Trio with Chris Dave and his other band Experiment.
JI: What was it that initially inspired you to become a bassist? How did it all start?
VA: Not being able to play with any good bass players at college. So I learned to play so I can hear what I like.
JI: What are your thoughts about electric vs. acoustic bass?
VA: I play and love them both. They both have their place in the music and are not limited to any genre. For example, it is always fun playing R&B, Hip-hop with the double bass, which is not always common.
JI: When you first embarked on the sophisticated journey of becoming an improvising or jazz bassist, what were some methods that you found extremely useful to achieving your goals?
VA: Know yourself and always explore regardless whether it works for the situation or not.
JI: Some say that stress and angst make for good art, and others say you need to find serenity to really express yourself. Have you found that your life outside of music, or your state of mind in general have a direct correlation to your playing?
VA: I am part owner of a skate/snowboard shop here in Brooklyn that occupies a lot of my downtime. So when I do get a chance to practice, my time is focused and concentrated because I do not have all day everyday to do that. Skateboarding/snowboarding has always been a part of me and has a direct correlation with music. It too is also very creative and is focused on individual style.
JI: What is the greatest compliment that you can receive as a musician?
VA: “Were you in the band that just played?”