The master bassist talks about his upcoming Saturday, June 28, show at the Doris Duke Theatre, keeping chestnuts “fresh,” and what he’s listening to now (you’ll be surprised)
Benny Rietveld was born in the Netherlands of Dutch and Indonesian heritage, and raised on O‘ahu. One of the most respected bassists around (you don’t get on the cover of Bass Musician Magazine by being a slouch), Rietveld toured with Sheila E and Miles Davis. Since 1997 he has been Santana’s bass player and musical director, and right now he’s on the road with the band’s 2014 Corazon Tour. But he’s not too busy to return to what he calls his spiritual home for a concert at the Doris Duke Theatre this Saturday. He generously answered a few questions by email as we wait in anticipation for his concert.
Q: The 2014 Corazon Tour you are now on breaks for a couple weeks—but instead of relaxing, you are flying here for a show with a couple dozen of your talented friends. Does the music never stop for you? What inspired your upcoming show at the museum?
Music never stops for me. I actually (usually) enjoy challenging myself in different ways artistically. Every now and then, however, I do think, “What have I gotten myself into this time?” But it’s all good fun.
This show is special in that it’s set in my spiritual home, the place I was raised. And it goes with my increasing interest in the artistic and musical community in Hawai‘i, the direction it’s heading, and how maybe I can help. I’m connecting with so many people from different facets of my life in Hawai‘i, and I’m seeing the commonality in all of them. It’s really wonderful to see, and I’m learning from and being inspired by it all. So it’s sort of a “thank you, Hawai‘i” show. I have a feeling that most of my shows here are that, though.
Q: Having played with diverse legends—Miles Davis, Santana—you clearly can play anything. And the friends you’re sharing the stage with come from all walks of music. What can we expect on June 28? Or do not even you know?
Well, that’s nice of you to say, but in fact I can’t play “anything”—no one can. But I do pretty good in a lot of different genres, because I love them all so much. I guess I’m not good with boundaries, haha.
As to what you can expect on June 28th—well, some of it is, of course, a mystery to me, partially because I haven’t even met five of the players! But that’s the fun part, and I don’t think one should lose that sense of mystery and adventure in any kind of endeavor like this.
I can say that you will be treated to a night of mind-boggling artistry from a very diverse set of talented musicians and singers. You can also expect some jazz, rock, funk, classical, and Hawaiian influences, and even a little Broadway.
Q: You played 11 Santana concerts this month, which means you’ve played Black Magic Woman at least 11 times. How do you keep a song like that fresh for yourself? Or are you on autopilot at this point?
Autopilot is like death, one should never do that when doing music. And actually, it’s really easy to keep it “fresh”—it’s such a stone fun groove to play, what’s not to like? It’s like going to a party! And anyway, I was influenced by a book I got in high school, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Dr. Suzuki. It basically taught that everything can be a new experience when you are living in the moment. It wasn’t until many years later that I was really able to apply the precepts of the book into my musical life, and then into my everyday life, but the seeds were planted way back then. (Thanks, Mrs. Odo!)
Q: Do you compose music? If yes, what would you call it, and will we hear any of it on June 28?
Yes I do, and it’s mostly instrumental, and it ranges from folk to rock to jazz to electronica to neo-classical to Afro Cuban to…well, you get the idea. I don’t (or maybe I just can’t) make exact copies of all my favorite music, but it all gets thrown into the mixing bowl and comes out in different and surprising flavors.
Q: What are you listening to now?
Katy Perry. But not the new album so much, Teenage Dream is much better.
Q: I have to ask: Can you give us a Miles Davis anecdote? (That hopefully involves you.)
When I was with Miles, I had pretty long crazy hair, and a girlfriend I had at the time thought I should have my hair braided and weirdly colored on one side. So when Miles saw that, he just cocked his head and said, “How come women always wanna make you look like them?”
Want to see Benny in action? See concert info and purchase tickets online.