Very few people who have seen Rev Jones perform live ever forget him. While concert goers may initially notice Jones’ atheletic stage antics, colorful tattoos and unique hair style (a few dreadlocks growing out of the top of his head), what the reverend is most known for is his revolutionary two-handed bass playing technique. Along with Les Claypool (Primus) and Billy Sheenan (Mr. Big, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth), Rev Jones has brought the four-string to the front of the stage and elevated the art of bass-playing to the next level.
Head-banging fans weren’t the only ones who noticed of the Reverend’s unique skills; over the years, Jones has recorded and toured with the likes of Fuel, Steelheart, Paul Gilbert, George Lynch, and the Michael Shenker Group (of which Jones toured with for seven years), along with several less well known bands including Kottak, Black Symphony, and China Blue. But it is with Forte’, the local Oklahoma City-based band, where I first saw the Reverend perform. 20 years ago, everyone standing in the crowd knew that the Reverend was “going places.” Eventually he did, and here we are.
Basslines is Rev Jones’ first instructional DVD. On it, Jones walks viewers through the basics of playing bass, including the two-handed bass technique he is known for. The DVD is broken up into seven sections: Left and Right Hand Techniques, Both Hands Techniques, Bass Equipment, Famous Song Licks, Music Style, Song Ideas, and Live Show. Throughout the DVD a picture-in-picture techique is used so that viewers can watch what each of his hands are doing at any given time. Also included on the DVD is a PDF file that includes both the musical notation and the tablature for each example performed throughout the DVD. The examples are numbered both during the DVD and in the PDF file, so following along is pretty simple.
In Famous Song Licks and Song Ideas, Jones works his way through several bass licks. Each lick is played twice, once at normal speed and once at half speed. If you’re trying to play along at home, you may learn (as I did) that “normal speed” is a relative term. In Famous Song Licks, Jones works his way through King Crimson, Rush, KISS and Led Zeppelin licks, among others. In Song Ideas, he breaks down and demonstrates some of his own musical creations
The two shortest sections of the DVD, Musical Style and Bass Equipment, feature Jones discussing those two topics. The talks are accentuated with short musical examples — for example, as Jones discusses different musical styles of playing bass, he gives short examples of each style. There’s something inherently entertaining about watching a tattooed, top-knotted rocker demonstrating old Motown riffs.
The DVD concludes with Live Show, with Reverend Jones playing solo on a stage with concert lighting and a bit of pumped in fog. And while it was nice to watch Jones perform The Eagles “I Can’t Tell You Why,” Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and his signature Eleanor Rigby/I Can See Clearly Now medley, it would have been nice to see some live concert footage included here (that’s what YouTube is for, I suppose). The closest we get here is on his performance of Black Symphony’s Symptom, which is played on top of a backing tape.
Basslines was shot during a promotional tour in Taiwan; as a result, the DVD’s credits, subtitles, and much of the writing on the package is written in Chinese. Fortunately all the menus include both Chinese and English text, and I had no problem in playing the DVD on my plain-ol’ USA DVD player. Although come to think of it, my DVD player is Samsung, so it was probably made in Taiwan as well. Regardless, the DVD should play on your home DVD player — no worries there.
My only point of contention (and it is minor) is with the DVD’s website, which advertises that this DVD is for both beginners and experts. To get the most out of this DVD, I’d say you should at least be an intermediate player. Jones hits the ground running with his demonstrations, and even though tons of useful finger exercises are demonstrated, there is no basic talk about tuning, what notes each string is, where notes are on the fretboard, etc. Don’t get me wrong — I still think the DVD is excellent, but I wouldn’t recommend it picking it up the same day you get your first bass.
Basslines has so many exercises, tips and tricks crammed into it that I suspect those wishing to soak up the Reverend’s skills will need to watch the video many, many times. Those like me, who appreciate the art form but have no real desire to learn the bass, will definitely enjoy the video’s performances and riff examples. Highly recommended, I can’t imagine any bass player not learning something from this video.