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Jake Bass finds a fresh musical path, and all that jazz

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, April 5, 2021

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With his résumé steeped primarily in hip-hop and rock, jazz seems unlikely terrain for Jake Bass.

But with the release this week of his second jazz record, it's become "a passion project" at the center of the 31-year-old musician and producer's creative universe.

"I had grown up listening to that music and loved it, but I never really thought about doing that genre myself," says Bass, who resides in Berkley and works primarily in Ferndale, where he's renovating the F.B.T. Studios that's been home to his father and uncle's Grammy Award-winning work with artists such as Eminem, D12 Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly Stone, among others.

"I never actually studied jazz in school or anything. This is all by ear and picking up feels from artists I listen to. I get to showcase all my skills and collaborate with insanely talented people, and it really challenges me as an artist.

Bass, whose career also includes longtime collaborations with deaf rapper Sean Forbes and the Deaf Performing Artists Network (D-PAN), has certainly come out swinging — and swingin' — with his jazz. His 2020 album "The Jakey B. LP" reached No. 4 on the Amazon Jazz chart and No. 13 on the iTunes counterpart and has been streamed more than 175,000 times. It also snared Detroit Music Awards nominations for Bass as Outstanding Modern Jazz Artist and Outstanding Jazz Composer. Bass quickly followed that up with "The Jakey B. Sides," a six-song, 15-minute set that plants his stake even further in that musical ground.

"People have really been digging it and loving this direction I've been going in," Bass says. "I know I am. It's a great new adventure."

The Oak Park-raised Bass was born with music in his veins, of course. His father, Jeff Bass, and uncle Mark Bass helped launch Eminem's career during the mid-'90s through their F.B.T. Productions. Jeff Bass' own recordings provided an early introduction to jazz for Jake, who began playing drums and piano as a youth. He "grew up going to" F.B.T.'s studios, first on Eight Mile Road and then further north in Ferndale, and began writing songs and producing when he was 13. As a teenager he worked with Bizarre from D12 and King Gordy before attending Columbia College in Chicago, where he earned a degree in music composition.

"I did try baseball as a kid, and my dad was one of the coaches," Bass recalls. "Then he had to go to California for some reason, to work with Dr. Dre, and I was like ... 'Music is my thing!' I picked it up naturally, by ear. That was it for me. I knew when I was 8 that (music) is what I was gonna do.

"My dad always said he knew right away, when I started playing, that I had it in me. I felt like there was nothing else. I didn't want to do anything else."

After graduating, Bass continued working in "the family business," releasing his debut album "1989" in 2013, composing the soundtrack score for the Ovation Network's "Motor City Rising" and co-producing a 20th anniversary remix of Eminem's debut single "Infinite" in 2016. He launched his own production company and label, Basement Sounds 2.0, as well as another label with Sean Forbes, Two Blown Speakers.

During December 2018 Bass and Forbes also organized the Deaf and Loud Symphonic Experience concert at Detroit's Orchestra Hall, a groundbreaking event that featured full orchestrations and a global array of guests — including Bass' father and Motown veterans Martha Reeves, Dennis Coffey and Paul Riser.

Like "The Jakey B. LP," "The Jakey B. Sides" reprises his "Cookin' It Up" collaboration with saxophonist David McMurray of Was (Not Was) and Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker, Black Light Collective — who also recorded with Jeff Bass during the '90s. "My Smooth Jazz is not your ordinary Smooth Jazz," the younger Bass says of the genre in which he's happily been identified. "I consider it more Smooth Jazz-Hop. You've got a lot of hip-hop elements in there, a little more distortion on my guitar from my rock elements.

"I'm comfortable going in that direction, with that title. It doesn't sound like everything else. There's influences, but it's very much the Jakey B. sound."

More jazz is coming, Bass promises — "I'm constantly coming up with new material," he says — and he's also busy starting careers for Basement Sounds 2.0 artists Ryn Scott and Mama Yaya. If all goes as planned F.B.T. Studios will be running nonstop, with Bass' own 9-to-5 workday, as the father of a 3-year-old, starting at 9 p.m.

"What's crazy is my father and uncle finished this studio in 1993," Bass says, "so I was 3 years old. And here I am remodeling and taking over the studio, and my daughter just turned 3. She's going to be growing up here, just like I did. That circle of life is fascinating. It's really, really a trip. I love it."

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