Fun - but more show than tell!,
This review is from: Star Licks Bass Video-Tutor: Master Session - Flea [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Flea Bass Master Session
As a big Chilis fan, and aspiring bassist, I looked forward to getting an insight into their sound from Flea's viewpoint.
Intimate - He's joined by the late, great River Phoenix, of "Stand By Me" fame, and they're clearly old friends. They laugh, joke, and generally act like two cool guys. This is certainly more attractive than the usual Master Sessions, where a supremely talented, but slightly dull, guy shows you licks, out of context, in front of a plain white wall!
Gives Good Advice - Flea urges the viewer to keep an open mind, and preaches about the value of simplicity and listening to everyone in the band. Music works better, he says, when you compliment the band and the tune, not dominate like some mad jazz guy! Keep your chops for when it's appropriate to show off or required to play the tune - not all the time just because you can!
Flea says to keep an open ear, as well. Even if you can't, or don't play a certain style of music, there's always something you can learn from it. He demonstrates how he took ideas from punk, funk, and jazz, and applied it to his playing.
Excellent Warm-ups - He runs through his favourite warm-ups, giving little tips on how to get the best sound, and demonstrates how he got into slap and pop playing, too. He also shows you a few ideas with effects, how to play chords on a bass, and how to use open strings.
The Jams - Flea preaches the stream of consciousness style of improvisation, and this is demonstrated in between the various sections of the DVD, with him jamming with drummer Chad Smith.
However, outside the context of the full band, I found the jams sounded a bit samey, with Flea over-relying on his breakneck Slap and Pop licks, that he moved chromatically up and down the neck. It would have been more useful if he had demonstrated them in context with a band.
Lack Of Technical Detail - There's a lot to be learnt from Flea's licks, but the constant "To you own self be true, and play each note like it were your last" advice, whilst excellent, began to get old quickly. Flea and River came across like a couple of old hippies, high on something other than friendship at times, too. Its fun to watch the first time, but after a while I found myself wishing they'd get on with it and drop the "I'm a rocker and musically ignorant!" vibe.
Flea studied jazz trumpet at one stage, so he's had some training in theory, yet he says he knows nothing about music! Only a few moments later, he talks about how the modal nature of Chilis tunes (being based on one or two chords repeated over and over), meant that he could mix up scales and had more freedom, compared to Bebop, which is full of chords and has fast moving progressions. You clearly need some knowledge of music to understand this!
The things I listed in the PROS section pretty much sums up the teaching. A little advice on how he constructs his lines, tips for recovering from bad notes, and scales he likes to use, would have helped a lot. Not everyone has the ear or experience of Flea...
Old Footage - Because River is alive in this DVD, I assume it was recorded on tape, long before River's premature death. My guess is the session was filmed around the time of the "Mother's Milk" album, and anyone looking to get into more recent Chili's material would be best served elsewhere. Flea's style has definitely moved on and improved.
Overall, Flea's charismatic playing and larger-than-life personality make this DVD work for me. I've found that putting on the DVD for 5 minutes usually inspires me to try something new on the bass, and his energetic nature is certainly far more attractive than a lot of tuition DVDs out there!