The slap bassist offers an exclusive listen to four tracks from his forthcoming album
Born in Tacoma, Washington, US bassist Jair-Rohm Parker Wells grew up in Germany until he was 21, and he currently resides in Bangkok. He is the man behind the slap bass loops that you'll find in Apple programmes GarageBand and Logic. Outside of music software, his work has been released by labels such as Red Toucan, Klanggold, Ayler Records, and his own Glass Thought Communications. Wells’s last two visits to the UK saw him working on projects based on the music of Albert Ayler and Kurt Weill, alongside the likes of the late saxophonist Lol Coxhill, trumpeter Ian Smith and Tony Bianco on drums.
Wells's father and mother are ‘Geechies’: Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia. Talking to Ben Watson in The Wire 387, Parker Wells explains how ethnomusicologist Richard Graham of The Lunar Bear Ensemble and a family friend encouraged him to talk more to his father about the instruments they made. “That was the moment I connected my ethnocultural identity to what I was doing with the bass. There’s a very rich musical culture indigenous to South Carolina, virtually unknown. The drone is intrinsic to this culture. Geechie drone music started as the application of those structures and methods to solo bass guitar. I later adapted the concept to groups.”
“This Geechie drone music concept underpins Wells’s work,” elaborates Ben. “Whether he’s improvising in a noise band, playing a fuzz bass solo on “Superstition” in a Thai bar, layering an ambient soundtrack, or composing an opera (the scores for his trilogy – Music About Lines, Music About Order and Soft Study – composed while in residency at The New York Theatre Ensemble, are in storage in Stockholm). Not to mention his bass work on a bona fide UK chart hit: 5ive’s “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)”. With such a sweep of interests, it’s hard to know where to start. But you listen to a Jair-Rohm Parker Wells album, and everything falls into place. There is something whole and satisfying about his records which echoes John Coltrane – there’s an awareness of the record as a work of art, and a distillation of thought about sounds and society and the cosmos which you’re asking people to welcome into their homes.”
Written in Bangkok and recorded and mixed in Stockholm, Koheleth will be released 1 June on Glass Thought Communications.
Subscribers to the magazine can read Ben Watson's feature about Jair-Rohm Parker Wells via our online archive.