||Karlisle Pro I presents:
Lisle Atkinson's Neo Bass Ensemble
"Honoring Great Composers" Past & Present
Darnell "Jay" Starkes
Paul West - bass
Richard Wyands - piano
Gregory Bufford - drums
Paul Knoph - composer
Janet Steele - vocals
2537 Broadway at 95th Street
New York, NY 10025
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On Learning From Jazz Singers
By Philip Booth | Bass Player Magazine - July 2006
A Brooklyn-born veteran of gigs and recordings with everyone from legendary bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to soul-jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band, Lisle Atkinson was exposed to jazz as a child. His father, also a bassist, took him to see the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Beverly Peer, the bassist in Chick Webb's band, was a close family friend. Early on, Lisle was a sideman with Nina Simone and Betty Carter, and in recent years he's recorded dates with pianists Hilton Ruiz, Ray Bryant, and Norman Simmons. Atkinson has also played the New York area with his Neo-Bass Ensemble.
BP: You were studying classical when you made the move to the New York jazz scene. How did that happen?
LA: Nina Simone called me; I was recommended by someone. I was 22 and just getting ready to do my last year in school. We had a rehearsal, she was satisfied, and we went from there. At that time, she was playing a little of everything. Some of it was jazz, some of it was folk-like spirituals and ballads. Nina was a hell of a pianist. She was also coming from the classical idiom, in reference to her approach.
BP: Was that a challenge for you, playing so many diverse styles?
LA: No, not really. She wanted the least amount of complication as possible-roots and 5's, nothing too slick. I have to give Nina credit for being aware that I could bow, and she utilized it a lot. She had me playing a lot of arco in performances.
BP: What kind of approach did you take with Betty Carter?
LA: Betty Carter was the complete opposite. She was loose, but she was about bebop. She didn't make any restrictions on me. I was free to play however I chose.
BP: So many great players have come through her bands. Did it feel like a training school?
LA: There was knowledge training-mindset training, I would have to say. Her concept was freedom, freedom within what you're doing. I've had bandleaders tell me, "Don't go past the 2nd position." With Betty it was, "Play the instrument." Her thing was, "If it's too much, I'll tell you." She was good at drawing musicians out.