When the bass stops, the bottom kind of drops out of everything.

Charlie Haden

This week, we’re switching gears and introducing a band member to you!
In addition to offering up favorite tunes, new songs, and info on artists who have paved the jazz way, we also want to give you a look into the folks that make the CJO what it is.

Today we’re meeting bassist Aidan Plank!

CJO Q&A with Aidan Plank

How long have you been with the CJO?

The first time I played with the CJO was when I was 17 or so, and my teacher, Dave Morgan, had me sub for him at a CJO gig at the bandstand in Hudson. My first official gig as bassist with the band was in 2014 for a concert with Gerald Clayton. I’ve played ever since, so that’s 6 years.

What has been your favorite concert with the CJO?

There are lots of great memories, but I certainly remember most hearing my chart “Heartland” performed by the band for the first time, and that was such a thrill. I really enjoyed the concerts with Joe Lovano recently and loved any concert that featured the music and arranging of Howie Smith and Brad Wagner.

What is your favorite thing about performing with the CJO?

There are many things that I love about performing with the CJO. First and foremost, I grew up in this area and, coming up, I always admired the CJO. I loved hearing my teacher Dave Morgan perform with the band and loved hearing his music performed. Playing in the CJO was always something I aspired to as a young bassist, and here I am playing in the band! I also must add that another favorite thing about performing with the CJO is getting the chance to make music with good friends and getting to play with the great Jim Rupp!

What was your introduction to jazz?  

My family are all musicians and I grew up around music. I heard and enjoyed jazz as far back as I can remember. My grandfather was an Ellington fanatic who also hosted a jazz radio show (Time Out for Jazz) in Louisville, KY. He would make me mix tapes of Louis Armstrong, Duke, Pops Foster, Jimmy Blanton, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Cannonball Adderly. I remember listening to that while I would play with LEGOs when I was a little boy. My uncle is a jazz drummer (Mark Plank), and I used to really enjoy listening to recordings of him. Part of it was the music, part of it was that he’s my uncle! When I was an early teenager I was really into comic books and baseball, and also played the bass. But one Christmas my uncle gave me the Bill Evans recordings with Scott LaFaro and hearing LaFaro just blew me away, and from that point on I really started practicing (way more than I did my homework!) and that led to good things for me.

Who are your top musical influences?

I am influenced by any music that moves me. As a bassist I feel I draw most of my influence from: Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers, Scott LaFaro, Gary Peacock, Charlie Haden, Steve Swallow, Dennis Irwin, and John Goldsby.

What are your favorite jazz albums?

I am a huge record collector so it’s very, very hard for me to narrow down my favorites. I have so many. I’ll give you 5 that I love:

  • In the Evenings Out There – Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, John Surman, and Tony Oxley (ECM)
  • Gnu High – Kenny Wheeler (ECM)
  • Lyle Mays – Lyle Mays (Warner Bros)
  • Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet – Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige)
  • The Bridge – Sonny Rollins (RCA)

Why do you think jazz should be taught in schools?

Jazz isn’t a subject that has easy answers. It demands of every musician that they develop the most honesty possible, and the most understanding they can muster of themselves and of the world. Jazz is a subject of infinite possibilities and is the art of creating and honoring those that created. I think schools need a lot less rote memorization and many more subjects that inspire young people to think for themselves. I think teaching jazz demands that, and I think that is a good thing.

What are some of the other projects/groups you are involved with?  

I co-lead an ensemble called Pulse with Brad Wagner, Anthony Fuocco, and Dustin May. We make music that I can only describe as “aspiring to be the midwestern sound.” I find there are recordings of Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Micheal Brecker, and Keith Jarrett that all have music that has a midwestern sound to it. For example, listen to the whole Missouri Sky album by Metheny and Haden, or listen to Metheny’s tune “Every Day (I Thank You).” So, that’s the inspiration for the group. But we also simply explore new ideas that we come up with as composers (everyone in the band writes). So, the whole thing evolves every time we play.

I also play in Dan Bruce’s Beta Collective, Cleveland Jazzworks, and work as much as I can with the great guitarist Dan Lippel.

Thanks to everyone who tuned into the livestream at the Bop Stop Friday night!