Veasley says music has always moved him emotionally. He says, there were several factors which led me to choose music as a profession. Most importantly, it offered me a way to express things I couldn't find words for. After his father's death, he thought, if music can have this kind of healing effect on me, maybe I can spend my life creating music that I can do the same for others.
During Gerald Veasley's time in college in the 70's, urban music was going through a golden era. He says, that was a time when I was starting to really take music seriously and there were all these great sounds around. Music right about that time was starting to get very, very funky and people were taking a lot of chances. People came along like Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind and Fire, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. There were all these innovative groups who were making social and artistic statements without losing their soulfulness. Meanwhile, all these fusion groups like Weather Report were experimenting with combining these funky sounds with jazz.
After his time in college, Veasley became a sideman and worked with Grover Washington's band and Zawinul Syndicate for seven years with Weather Report co-founder Joe Zawinul. He also worked as a session musician, working and touring with such performers as Special EFX, Pieces of a Dream, McCoy Tyner, Gerald Levert, Teddy Pendergrass, Nnenna Freelon, Philip Bailey, the Dixie Hummingbirds, John Blake, Phil Perry and Joe McBride. He says, That was a real education on and off the bandstand.
Gerald Veasley says no matter who he has worked with, he has always learned something. There's value in avant-garde music or free jazz in and of itself, says Veasley, but then there's always value in how the experience of playing music like that makes you think about music. For instance, there was a project I was involved in where the music director was none other than Ornette Coleman. That was a very cool experience. He would stop the band and say 'The reason you played that was because you're playing fret ideas instead of music ideas. You're playing things that come under your fingertips instead of really trying to free yourself to play pure musical ideas, pure musical thought that is generated from within.' That kind of thinking is very liberating and it's taught me to create music from the inside out.
Not only has Veasely been a performer, he has also been an instructor as well. He says, I think of the fortune to have a career that has many dimensions. I've been teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1992. It's have many students that I have talked with through the university. In 2002, we started the Bass Boot Camp, which is an instructional project for bass players and actually it's more than that. It's a weekend of inspiration and intense instruction. We offer about 28 hours of instruction over a weekend. It's a series of master classes and workshops on topics from soloing to Latin music to grooving, sight reading. Anything of interest to a bass player, we cover it. We do it in an intense way, but in a way that's nurturing to bass players of all levels.
Not only does the Bass Boot Camp help up and coming bassists, Gerald Veasley says the instruction helps the mind set of the bassist. When we offer the program, one of the things we really wanted to make sure of is that we had other instructors who had the same mind set that I had of just trying to be very, very nurturing of the musicians, says Veasley. Sometimes when you're in a setting where you see some great bass player up there, let's say someone like a Victor Wooten or Gary Willis or Michael Manring who are legends in the bass community, so often bass players who are in a workshop will be so in awe of these people that they won't really try to really get the concepts on their own. Our program is designed to be hands on. It's also designed to break down that barrier between student and instructor. We all realize that we're instructors, but we're also students. We're constantly trying to better ourselves in that we may have more years of experience, but we're also in the same path as you are, to develop as a musician, to be able to play more from what's in your heart and to express yourself.
Since 1992, Veasley became a solo artist and recorded six studio albums. All his releases up through 1999's Love Letters featured the late Grover Washington Jr. as a guest artist. After Grover's death late in 1999, Veasley saluted Grover on his 2001 release On Fast Track with the song Goodnight Moon. Veasley says, Grover was a gentle human being who I think about every day. I feel like a steward of his legacy, a legacy of honest, heartfelt music. It's better to play one note that sounds like you than a hundred that sound like someone else.
Up until this time, Veasley has never released a recording of material done live in front of an audience. However, that has changed with his latest release Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base. He says, we decided to do something for the fans. Fans come up to me after a show and they say 'you know, I like your studio records, but where can I hear this?' and what they're referring to is when you see a live concert, not just me but most contemporary jazz artists, there's so much spontaneity, there's so much excitement that it's hard to get that it in a studio setting because the audience contributes, frankly, to that electricity, the vibrancy that they feel in a live concert.
One thing that makes Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base special is where it was recorded. He says, I was real fortunate to record it in my own club. We have a club called Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in the Sheraton Reading in Reading, Pennsylvania. We present jazz there every week on Thursday. The way that came about is that Reading is the home of the Berks Jazz Festival, which many people recognize as one of the premier jazz festivals in the country, really in the world. A great ten day festival and have national artists. Last year, they presented 130 concerts during that festival, which is really mind boggling. But once the festival is gone, almost like the circus being in town, once the circus is out of town, there is no jazz in Reading, Pennsylvania. So a few of us thought it would be a great idea, including the Berks Jazz Festival people, the Sheraton Reading and myself, thought it would be great to present jazz year round and the response has been phenomenal.
Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base has continued to bring the spirit of the Berks Jazz Festival on a continuing basis to Reading. He says, a lot of the same people who were involved with the jazz festival are involved in Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in doing the promotion, the marketing, the production, the merchandising and so forth. It's a team effort and I'm really just excited about it. One of the great benefits of having your own club is coming up with programming ideas and selfishly I thought one of the first programming ideas was to do a live recording there and I'm really proud of the way it turned out.
Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base brings a group of musicians that have worked with Veasley and some that are relatively new. He says, I'm fortunate enough to have a great band. This band has been with me for several years. There are a couple of members who are new, but the core of the band's been with me for a couple of years. These guys are really established as musicians in their own right. Guys who have work with Alicia Keys, Jeffrey Osborne, Maynard Ferguson, Jill Scott and I could go on and on about the individual resumes of these guys. Names from the jazz world, names from the neo-soul world, names from the pop world. But we all come together with one concept of playing contemporary jazz that's very exciting and spontaneous and funky.
Gerald Veasley's first live release shows just how important people who listen to contemporary and smooth jazz should take time to expand their horizon. It's good to hear what a performer does on a studio release, but Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base shows there is a difference when you see and hear someone perform live. You get to see the musicians' soul and on Veasley's CD, that soul shines through. Veasley says, Anyone who has seen me live knows that I'm not just kind of doing it by the numbers. Every time I get the opportunity to get on stage, it is really a celebration. Celebrate with Veasley by getting the CD.