20 questions for Calgary bassist John Hyde
by Karin Plato
I didn't know who John Hyde was until I met him this past summer
at a jazz camp. I found him to be a humble and thoughtful man, quietly
staying in the background, ever the observer of a situation, not
one to steal the limelight as it were. He is a beautiful bass player
whose style is introspective and soulful. I loved his sound and
the wonderful melodic lines he created.
John is artistic director of Jazz Studies at Mount Royal College
in Calgary. He has performed with Rosemary Clooney, David Wilkie,
Karl Roth, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Christian Escoudier, and the Calgary
Philharmonic, and more. Here are some questions I asked him recently:
John, I know that you reside in Calgary, Alberta. Is that
where you grew up?
I was born in Edmonton. Our family then lived in Toronto for 5
years where I had some classes in the Orff method. I spent the next
15 years back in Edmonton when music education was scarce in the
early years but picked up with Grant MacEwan college and the creation
of a full time orchestra. I spent three years in Montreal at McGill
university, two more in Edmonton and have been in Calgary ever since.
How old were you when you decided to learn to play the
I was 13 when I played the electric bass after failing to get
in my local garage band as a guitar player, and 15 when I started
playing the double bass.
What was it about the acoustic bass that attracted you
to the instrument?
I was attracted to the singing qualities of the double bass. I
was playing a lot of electric bass and found the acoustic nature
of the double bass really intriguing.
Are there any other instruments that you do play?
Not well at all. I like to explore any instrument but I have no
proficiency on any of them. The computer is my best second instrument.
Besides jazz what other kinds of music do you enjoy listening
to and playing?
I like almost all naturally produced music, if it is played really
well by actual human beings.
6. Describe some of your early music education. Did you
have private teachers or are you a self-taught musician?
I have had teachers through all the early stages of my life. When
I was a young child in Toronto I was in an Orff method class. When
I started electric bass I studied with several teachers. John Toulsen
(now in Vancouver) was my main influence in my early years of playing.
I went study classical bass to Peter Marck, now principle bass in
the Jerusalem Philharmonic. I was lucky enough to get a lesson with
Dave Holland when I was 18, which really influenced my concept of
sound and bass playing in general.
I went to Montreal to study classical double bass at McGill but
spent a lot of time playing jazz in those three years. I was lucky
enough to be exposed to many genres of music, jazz, classical, new
music, early music, opera. I think I was able to work in every imaginable
area in that time.
7. Who would be some of your main musical influences, whether
they be bassists or other instrumentalists?
Louis Armstrong for the strong connection he brings to the roots
of jazz. Duke Ellington for his incredible grace and ability to
sell really innovative music to the public. Bela Bartok for his
contribution to the harmonic language. Jimmy Blanton, Ray Brown
, Ron Carter and Scot LaFaro for expanding limits of bassists. Miles
Davis, Herbie Hancock, Gil Evans, , Bob Brookmeyer, Muhal Richard
Abrams and Maria Schneider for pushing the boundaries of the art
8. Do you remember the first jazz recording that you ever
Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. I had taken many recordings
from the public library before that and my father had a good collection.
I wanted to buy something which was new which I hadn't heard before
and wasn't likely to be able to hear on the radio or borrow at the
library. I had a subscription to "Downbeat" and the review
created a lot of curiosity for me.
9. Could you name some of your favorite jazz recordings?
Jimmy Blanton with Duke Ellington because it is one of the first
collections of recordings to feature a bassist performing melody.
Peterson's We Get Requests because Ray Brown's bass is
so well recorded that you can even hear him set his bow down.
Dave Holland Conference of the Birds because for it's evocative
Miles Davis' Seven Steps to Heaven because (for me) it
introduced mixed meter improvisation into jazz in a really masterful
Charlie Mingus Mingus AH UM because it is such great writing
and swings so hard.
Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage for the new harmonic ideas
it introduced at the time.
Drew Gress' 7 Black Butterflies, Ronan Guilfoyle's Lingua
Franca exit as really great cutting edge jazz albums.
10. What is the most positive thing about being a jazz
musician living in Calgary?
There are lots of opportunities to engage in many different projects
with a very wide scope. We have a very enthusiastic community who
is willing to come out for our various projects.
11. Is it detrimental at all for your career to be living
in a small prairie city or is that a choice you made long ago? Had
you ever thought about going the "New York" route?
A career is what you make of it. I really enjoy the chance to
do a wide variety of things and to avoid being typecast into one
12. When did you know you wanted to become a professional
I was fifteen years old. I knew I was getting into it very late
and had a lot of work to do. At the same time there were a lot of
live music gigs in the area and a shortage of musicians. I was very
lucky to be at that place at that time.
13. Did you grow up listening to jazz? If not, when did
you discover the music?
There was jazz in my house all throughout my childhood. My father
had a large collection and it was a passion for him. When he was
a teenager he would go to listen to Woody Herman, Art Tatum and
many others. My Grandmother would take him and insist on him shaking
hands with them.
14. Is teaching music something that you enjoy doing?
Yes, I really enjoy teaching people who are really engaged in
learning about the bass. I feel you get back more than you put into
it, it is extremely rewarding.
15. Who might you select for your "dream band"
if you were able to choose anyone you want to and why might those
people be your choices?
I've been able to play with people I never dreamed I could have.
So I'll limit my answer to players who I can't possibly play with:
Elvin Jones was an amazingly energetic drummer who would keep you
engaged at all times. Bill Evans for his amazing ability with harmony
and interplay. Miles Davis for his ability to get performances out
of players which were astounding. Betty Carter for her depth of
emotion and tempo control, as well as for her incredible compassion
and education of young musicians. Gil Evans for his amazing writing.
John Coltrane for his incredible intensity. Cannonball Adderly,
JJ Johnson, Joe Pass just because of the mastery they had with their
horns. I'll bet this band would not work well unless Betty Carter
was leading them. So maybe I'd just have liked to play duets with
16. Do you lead your own group at this time in Calgary?
I'm part of many creative collectives, as of yet I do not lead
17. Are there some groups that you are able to play with
on a regular basis?
I am playing and writing a lot with the guitarist Ralf Buschmeyer
and with drummer Andy Ericson in a trio we call "Manic Thematic".
I also play and write with a quartet, which goes by the name "Verismo".
We are the first Calgary band to ever be recorded by CBC's "Jazzbeat".
I also write and play with a jazz/bluegrass fusion band.
18. What would be some advice that you would give to budding
jazz musicians relating to education and other decisions that need
to be made?
Keep open to all possibilities and to as many options as you can
at all times.
19. What makes you happy about having chosen music as
I don't think I had a choice. I am happy when I am busy playing
20. Any current projects/recordings that you are working
on at this time that you can tell me about?
The Manic Trio will have a new release named Say Yes.
We'll be releasing it in October (2005) with a tour to Brooks, Fort
McLeod, Whitehorse and Calgary.
Karin Plato web site
John Hyde web site