Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Road to Freekbass’s ‘Cincinnati’ goes through Lexington

Freekbass, a.k.a. Chris Sherman, is to perform Friday at Cosmic Charlie’s. He recorded his latest album, Cincinnati, at Lexington’s Shangri-La Studio.
Freekbass, a.k.a. Chris Sherman, is to perform Friday at Cosmic Charlie’s. He recorded his latest album, Cincinnati, at Lexington’s Shangri-La Studio.

Freekbass

Opening: Jon Dose. 10 p.m. Nov. 20 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. $8. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.

There is no doubting the home turf of Chris Sherman, the electric bass titan better known to the funk masses as Freekbass. But just in case there is any question, the city that has long been his personal and professional headquarters is also the title of his upcoming album: Cincinnati.

It’s a fitting homeland, as Cincinnati has an extensive history of funk, soul and R&B dating to the early days of James Brown and the famed Queen City label King Records. Sherman soaked it all in, along with Cincinnati soul sounds that emerged during subsequent decades by funk-pop acts Zapp, The Ohio Players and especially the groundbreaking Parliament/Funkadelic bass pioneer Bootsy Collins.

“I get asked a lot on the road, especially when I get outside of Ohio or the Kentucky area, if I would still be playing music had I not grown up in that area of the country,” Sherman said. “I’m sure I would, but I don’t know if I would be playing the style of music that I have been playing. The reason I sound the way I do comes from growing up in Cincinnati.”

Now here is the curious thing: The Freekbass sound might have developed up I-75 a bit. But where did Sherman go to record Cincinnati? Why, to Lexington, specifically to Shangri-La Productions and producer Duane Lundy.

“I love it down there,” Sherman said. “I’ve thought many times about moving to Lexington. I’ve got so many friends, both professionally and personal, there. You guys are just 70 miles down the road from Cincinnati. In the blink of an eye, I’m there anyway. It seems like I’m there as much as I am up here anymore.”

Unlike his last Shangri-La-made album, Everybody’s Feelin’ Real, which was cut during an extended break from touring, Cincinnati (due out Dec. 11 on the nationally distributed rope-a-dope label) was heavily road-tested.

“With Everybody’s Feelin’ Real, we were kind of putting a blueprint together in the studio as we went. With this new album, we had been hitting things pretty hard for the last year and a half to two years on the road, so the band was real tight. We did a ton of pre-production, too.

“We were out on the West Coast for about a month, so whenever we would have a day off, we would hole up in a hotel room and really hunker down on everything before we even got into the studio with Duane. So we had a really nice, solid foundation.”

What results is an album that runs from the brassy bass fusion runs of Ritmo to the dance-pop charge of Don’t Waste My Time to the percussive funk/soul of Pharaoh.

“I started off as a drummer and then went to guitar and then over to bass,” Sherman said. “Now I think of myself as a drummer who plays notes on the bass. But some days I might be a keyboard player who plays the bass or a guitar player who plays the bass. I don’t really think of limiting the instrument in terms of, ‘Oh, the bass isn’t supposed to do that.’ That said, as fancy-schmancy and crazy as I can get, my favorite bass line of all time was James Jamerson on Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone by The Temptations. It was just three notes, so it’s not all about flash. The pocket is always the thing.

“I’m to the point where some people may love what I do, some people may hate what I do. But I’m pretty comfortable in my skin now, so this is what I’m going to be doing for a long, long time.”

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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