Fusion artist extraordinaire and sometime Pat Metheny alumnus Mark Egan brings us up to date with his new album, Electric Blue, recorded with his longtime drummer colleague Danny Gottlieb.
How has the pandemic treated you, Mark?
“Fortunately, I’ve remained healthy. The current situation is similar to the way I live anyway – as an artist, I’m always in my studio, practicing, recording, or writing. The difference is that I’m not traveling, and I miss playing with my friends. I lost a whole year’s worth of work.“
Tell us about the new album, Electric Blue.
“Danny Gottlieb and I have always done duo concerts in the north-east of the USA, and when we toured with the band Elements we often did a duo piece within the set. We always had this rapport, and we always wanted to record what we did, so in summer 2019 we went into my studio in Connecticut and recorded the basic tracks. After that we added more tracks, right up until the virus hit, and the album came out in the fall of 2020.“
You and Danny must have a practically telepathic relationship by now.
“Yes, we have a real stream of consciousness from playing together for so many years with the Pat Metheny Group, and even before that at the University of Miami. This album celebrates almost 50 years of us being friends and playing together. We wanted to have a good balance of improvisation and composition, and vehicles for us to express how we do those things.
“We picked four or five key centers for the kind of improvisation that we do so well, and then we recorded a song of mine called Cabarete, which we’ve done before, but not in duo form. That was the basic approach over three or four days of recording.“
Is it still possible for you and Danny to surprise each other, musically?
“Yes. We have a wide vocabulary within our styles and techniques of playing. His whole expression on the instrument comes from a combination of influences, including studying with Dave Brubeck’s drummer Joe Morello, his dedication to studying the drum masters, and his long experience of touring and recording with world-class artists – Danny was Joe’s protégé in high school, nearly 50 years ago.
“He’ll start to play something, and then superimpose something else in double or triple time, and it blows me away, so I then play something completely different than I would have. I’ll do the same, because I’ve been investigating different modalities and rhythms.
“That’s the beauty of any two people playing together, because you have ideas that you play off of each other, and you have that ability to surprise – as opposed to always being in the same place all the time.
Which basses did you use on the album?
“I recorded with all Pedullas on the Electric Blue record – a five-string signature fretless and fretted; an eight-string fretless; and a double-neck with eight-string fretted and four-string fretless necks. I’ve been playing Pedullas for many years, since 1981.
“I also have some vintage Fenders, including a 1964 Jazz that I’ve recorded on many albums. I used that bass on Sting’s Nothing Like The Sun record. I’ve also been playing Marleaux basses. I met Gerald Marleaux through Etienne Mbappé, as I noticed that Etienne was playing a Marleaux bass in concert in New York. I play two of his basses, a Consat custom and a Votan DX Deluxe, both five-strings.“
Do they complement the Pedulla tones?
“Very well indeed. Gerald is a very fine luthier who creates equally fine instruments. The Pedulla basses have become a very distinctive sound for me. Michael and I have worked really closely together since 1981 on the development of the fretless Buzz bass.
“I have many of his prototypes, which have led to my signature five-string Pedulla bass, which has a two-octave neck. The neck is narrow from front to back to accommodate my small hands, and I also use a very low action to achieve the sustain and growling sound. “
What other gear do you use?
“The strings are D’Addario XL170 with a low B string of .128. I'\''ve been endorsing D’Addario since 1977. I also endorse Markbass amps. I play through an array of their equipment, including the CMD-102P combo, as well as the Big Bang, Little Mark 3, NY 121 and the Mark Vintage Pre.
“I play the CRT five-string version of the NS Design electric upright. I’m a big fan of Radial Design, and in particular their new tube HDI that has a compressor built into it. I also have a Millennia TD1, which is an active DI with EQ.
“My effects are usually stereo chorus and delay, depending on the song, and then I go into the DI, and finally into the Pro Tools HDX interface. I’ve been producing many projects over the years, and have accumulated a great selection of outboard gear – I enjoy using these vintage tools when the music calls for it.“
- Electric Blue is out now on Wavetone Records.