JamBase Questionnaire: Reed Mathis

Welcome back to JamBase's baker's dozen of probing, wide-ranging questions to the bright lights in the jam scene (and beyond). Last time we heard from Keller Williams and upcoming installments will include The Black Seeds, Scott Metzger, Plants and Animals and more!

Few would argue with you if you said Reed Mathis is one of the bassists of his generation. More than once I've had friends seeing him play for the first time make Hendrix comparisons, and there's more than a bit of Jimi's fire and of-the-moment creativity to Mathis' style, which mingles fine groove instincts with a precocious knack for taking the bass into places usually reserved for electric guitarists. Few players listen more intently to their compatriots or act upon what they hear with such clear pleasure in making music together with others. He is a constant source of inspiration to his bandmates in whatever setting, driving himself in ways that also stirs up the best in others, elevating the whole of whatever he puts his mind to. As a co-founder and architect of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey for 15 years, Mathis established himself as one of the premiere instrumentalists and top-notch young composers in the jam & jazz worlds, and in recent years has shown a similar flair for rock 'n' roll with Tea Leaf Green and new side project 7 Walkers with Papa Mali and Bill Kreutzmann, as well as plying open-ended instrumentalism with the Marco Benevento Trio..

Reed Mathis by Josh Miller
One of the less celebrated but equally lethal aspects of this hyper-multi-talent is his growing production acumen. Approaching mixing boards and recording technology with the same purposeful intensity he employs with his instrument, Mathis has emerged in recent years as a premiere young producer. His mojo was working REALLY well on his JFJO swansong Winterwood, and now he's captured the finest studio work to date from Tea Leaf Green. Looking West, released yesterday, is the quartet's most adventurous, sonically switch-on album, finding them playing with vocal textures and scintillating, unpredictable arrangements, while adding ropey muscle to their trademark signature glide.

On Looking West we hear Trevor Garrod unearth his inner Leon Russell – rusty menace and all – while Josh Clark plays with greater subtlety and sings with greater force than we've ever heard on record. The rhythm team of Mathis and Scott Rager carries the whole enterprise along so seamlessly that one might initially miss how tight 'n' right they're playing is. And the entire album overflows with small, perfect touches that accent the strength of their songwriting and charismatic delivery. Put more briefly, Looking West is as fine a rock 'n' roll slab as you're gonna hear in 2010. (Dennis Cook)

Here's what Reed had to say to our inquiries.

Nicknames: Ginger-Christ-Superstar, Yeti Lee

1. Great music rarely happens without…
Ungluing your eyes from the teleprompter and saying, "Fuck it, we'll do it live."

2. The first album I bought was…
A double purchase: Thriller and Rappin' The Books of the Bible

3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
In a rental car I heard a radio show in Burlington VT of a local band called Swale. Unbelievable songs, gut-wrenching performances. Can't wait to hear more of that.

4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
Some sort of explorer/discoverer/adventurer. It pretty much is going exactly according to plan.

5. My favorite sort of gig is…
An old, beautiful room, a humongous bass tone, consequence-free improvising, a packed dance-floor, some prepared poems and some surprise solos. And then, a silent, dark, cool place to do some deep breathing.

6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
Sometimes I'm shy, but it's not cause I'm not stoked.

7. I love the sound of…
The mockingbirds in the Mississippi River Valley

8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
Axis: Bold as Love

9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
At a good friend's home in Trinidad, CA. Thanks, Polans!

10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
San Francisco

11. The worst habit I've picked up being on the road all the time is…
Not calling family & loved ones enough, even though I miss & think of them often.

12. The Beatles or the Stones? Por qué?
I'd have to say Beatles. Why, I can't really say. I do like it a lot though. The Stones, too.

13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
Carnegie Hall, from the stage

JamBase | Westward Leaning
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[Published on: 6/17/10]

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