Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

July/August 2013: Jon Gordon

Sam Little

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Sam Little is a young bass player with fire in his belly. Equally comfortable on the upright and electric, he has wide-ranging taste and a warm sound. This summer, he’s rounding up a few keen players and kicking off a Tuesday evening jam session.

What got you interested in playing the bass?

I was always attracted to countermelodies in music. The idea of a main melodic line being supported and complemented by another melody was intriguing to me. When I was starting out, I was obsessed with strong groove-oriented music like R&B, funk, and some progressive rock—music that really emphasized the rhythm section. I feel like that helped tune my ear towards what it means to create a strong bass line that serves the song.

Who do you think of as your musical inspirations?

In jazz I love artists who have a strong sense of their musical voices. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Keith Jarrett. I love Pat Metheny. John Coltrane is a huge inspiration to me—A Love Supreme was the first jazz record I honestly loved. As a bass player, I would say Dave Holland, Scott LaFaro, Jaco Pastorius, Rich Brown and Bob Hurst are my main guys right now. I can find beauty in all styles of music, from John Cage’s prepared piano pieces to metal bands like Meshuggah and Periphery to electronic musicians like Flying Lotus and Squarepusher. So I guess the answer to that question just depends on the week.

Tell me a bit about the jam session you’re starting up this summer.

I’m really excited about this! We’re playing every Tuesday night starting in July at Triple Five on Osborne. The band consists of myself and recent U of M Jazz grads Victor Lopez on guitar and Allan Suban on drums. The three of us have developed a great musical rapport—if one of us takes a tune in a new direction, the others will be right on board. That kind of trust is really special. We’re joined by a newcomer to the Winnipeg music scene, Alec Meen on keyboards. I’ve had a chance to play with Alec a fair amount since he moved from Edmonton last fall and we work really well together. We’ll play one set and then open up the jam session. The music we play is a mix of originals and standards. We’re all into the electric side of jazz so you can expect some more groove-based stuff as well.

Why are jam sessions important to musicians?

I see a jam session as an opportunity for musicians of all skill levels to try new things, to break out of their comfort zone. The whole point is to create a positive environment for musicians and music lovers. I’m not worried about the occasional musical misstep—I embrace those moments because it’s a natural part of trying to work out your own voice. I’m excited to have a chance to try new things every week and push myself as an accompanist, soloist and bandleader. I’m also looking forward to playing with new people. Jamming is a great way to hang out with different musicians on the scene—it’s going to be super fun!

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