Get funky with Freekbass and the Bump Assembly
Article by Ric Holmquest
It’s been an exciting year for Freekbass, Cincinnati’s primer bass guitarist and funk music ambassador. The Ropeadope Records artist released his sixth record “Cincinnati” to rave reviews. New Zealand’s Stonefield Musical Instruments introduced their new Freekbass Signature Model bass guitar and he has hit the road backed by Razor Sharp Johnson on keys/synthesizer and Rico Lewis on the drums/vox, together forming the Bump Assembly. Sharp and Lewis are funk music heavy hitters, honing their skills for years with George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band.
Freekbass, born and raised in Cincinnati, funk music’s epicenter, graduated from the city’s School for Creative and Performing Arts. Recruited by P-Funk alumnus and onetime Bootsy’s Rubber Band vocalist Gary “Mudbone” Cooper to record a track for a Jimi Hendrix tribute, Freekbass was introduced to Collins himself, who christened him with his stage name in 1992. Bootsy, one of the all-time great funk and R&B bassist, singer, bandleaders, performed in James Brown’s backup band, George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic and then launched Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
Freekbass shares, “This is one of those pinch yourself type things. Bootsy has produced three of my albums and we’ve worked on many projects together. When we first connected I thought ‘I am going to learn all of this great bass stuff,’ which I did, but the main thing he directed me in is getting around in a recording studio, the art of writing and producing songs and how to keep your head above water in this crazy business of music. Bootsy comes from the school of teach a man to fish and he will fish forever. I feel very honored and blessed all the time to have gotten to work with and have a relationship with someone like him.”
Freekbass explains, “There has always been a very strong funk scene in Cincinnati. In the 1960s there was a label in Cincy called King Records, where James Brown recorded a big chunk of his hits. There are amazing musicians from all genres here, and I am always very proud to call Cincinnati home. Last year WNKU asked me to host a funk show which I do every week now called “Funky Fridays with Freekbass.” We cover a lot of the funk from this area and all over the world, both current and classic. It’s something I have really enjoyed doing on top of touring and recording.”
The Freekbass signature bass guitar features special tweaks to fit the funk bassist’s style, enabling snaps, pops and other percussive elements. A ramp was added between the pickup and fingerboard to aide in double-thumbing and other slap techniques. As a further testament to his musical creativity, The Rock House Method, a national music instruction company released two Freekbass instructional DVD’s Learn Funk Bass with Freekbass, levels one and two. Trufire.com has released the instructional DVD/download 50 Freekbass Licks You Must Know.
Freekbass reveals, “Razor Sharp’s keys have been on my last few albums and we have worked together a lot. When we signed with Ropeadope Records I asked him if he would be able to go on the road full time and he agreed. He’s a legend in the funk world, so it is always an honor to have him onstage with me. Drummer Rico had been touring with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic for the last fifteen years. He and I jammed together onstage with Bernie Worrell a few years ago and it really clicked. With both he and Razor the band is at another level.”
Freekbass sums it up, “We have been touring non-stop over the last year so everything feels very tight now. We have a great sense for each other’s musicality on and off stage. It’s been a very exciting last couple of years. We are going to be touring more and more, and start work on our next album. Keep up with all of my adventures at www.freekbass.com and
Eastern Iowans will have a chance to see Freekbass and the Bump Assembly at Parlor City Pub and Eatery 1125 3rd St. S.E. Cedar Rapids Sunday, September 18, 4-8pm. No cover charge, it’s your lucky day!