At the moment, Josh Needleman is keeping his ear to the ground for a performance oriented electric bass position with a touring and recording band. He just released his original thumping jazz bass single "Horn Slicka" which features Paul Hanson on funk jazz bassoon. Josh writes and grooves on his bass in his favorite styles, and regularly adds short and sweet solo bass videos to his YouTube & Facebook accounts to keep busy and to give other musicians a way to see and hear him now.
As educator, Josh works with a group of electric & upright bass students of all ages and levels. He co-wrote, as well as recorded and composed the electric and upright bass parts for the "Jazz Bass Goldmine" bass instruction book published by Hal Leonard. Additionally, Josh wrote the unique bass instruction book available on Amazon called "Getting Around The Bass", a staple text book of his own students and many others.
The Early Years
I started performing music in kindergarten in Glens Falls, New York, a small town in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, when my teacher selected me for the all city children's chorus. I continued to perform in chorus until I graduated from high school. After dabbling in cello and trumpet in second grade, I played trombone in school from third grade until I graduated from high school. My mom bought me a Yamaha dreadnaught acoustic guitar when I was 12 but I couldn't even get it to make a sound. Though I have ended up more spiritual than religious, I was raised in the Jewish tradition where I sang my entire Bar Mitzvah and blew the Shofar on Passover. When I was 15 I saw Sting playing the bass and singing with The Police and I told my friend Larry, "I think I can do that even if I can't sing quite that high". Larry had a Les Paul so we planned to start a band. I got an old Sear's bass and amp from my mom's friend and was able to play immediately, so I proceeded to learn every Police song before my friend and keyboardist/vocalist Liz Woodbury asked me to play bass in neighboring Queensbury High School's talent show. I had been playing for only two months and had not even had a lesson yet, but I went out and played 15 rock songs that l figured out myself by ear. We won the talent show. After the talent show, I said to Liz, "I could see you and I starting a band with Steve Metivier and Tim O'Connor from Glens Falls." The next day "Axis" was born. Liz and I shared the vocal duties while Steve played drums and Tim shredded on electric guitar. It was around this time that I heard my brother blasting "Tom Sawyer" by Rush on his turn table. I went in his room and my jaw dropped when I heard Geddy Lee's 7/8 bass part during Alex Lifeson's guitar solo. Later that day, I asked my mom for a new bass that was easier to play and asked her if I could take lessons. She said I needed to save up for the bass but that she would pay for one bass lesson. I went to Triads Music Center in downtown Glens Falls and guitarist Mark Caruso attempted to show me "Tom Sawyer" on bass. I didn't learn it. One day in jazz band at school, I put my trombone down and asked jazz band bassist Joe Cantz to show me the middle section of "Tom Sawyer" on his Fender Jazz Bass. I was blown away. For the next 8 years, I was a serious Rush fan and proceeded to master many Rush songs. In "Axis", Liz played the Rush keyboard parts to some of the songs from the "Signals" and "Moving Pictures" records that I could sing. We played "Limelight", "New World Man", and "Subdivisions". Okay, we also played tunes by Kansas, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Brian Adams, Til Tuesday, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, and many others, but all I really wanted to play at the time was Rush. We would pack the teen club "Down Under" in South Glens Falls and played many fun dances until we all graduated from High School. I was so into singing and playing the bass, that I talked the coach of my hockey team into starting the other goalie in the playoffs because I was afraid a puck would damage my hand and keep me from playing the upcoming dance!
I went to college in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts at Boston College on an academic scholarship though my heart was fully committed to bass. Fall of freshman year, I auditioned against 7 other bassists for a gig with "The Contemporary Theater Society of Boston College" who were performing "Jesus Christ Superstar" and won the chair! It was an incredible experience and it opened my ears up to other styles of music including jazz, blues, funk, latin, jam, reggae, and classical! Over the next four years I was asked to play bass for "Hair", "Godspell", and "Evita". Additionally, the director of the campus big band "BC Bop!" asked me to play bass. I was a little overwhelmed at first, but I quickly learned how to play big band charts as my reading and improvisation skills had improved so much playing the musicals. By senior year, I was playing in a college party band for packed parties, as well as a progressive rock trio with drums, bass, and keyboards called "Grand Design". We made my first original demo with the band. It was around this time that I was introduced to great bassists like Jaco Pastorious, Marcus Miller, Stanly Clarke, and John Pattitucci.
Early Professional Career
I was lucky enough to establish a relationship with three Berkelee College of Music graduates who were all one or two years older than me who live just outside Boston late in my senior year. We formed a working group called "Out of the Blue" that performed all over the tri-state area (Massachusetts, Connecticut, & New York). We played everything from Glen Miller to Led Zeppelin and everything in between! I shared the singing duties with everyone and I grew tremendously as a musician. After a few years however, this became somewhat mechanical and easy as we were working every weekend and making a good living. I wanted more, and still had dreams of creating a great power trio in the wake of The Police and Rush, so I gave my notice and went back home to Glens Falls in hopes of starting a band. Life had other plans for me as my Mom had relocated to Oregon and I could not make it happen in Glens Falls. I soon followed her out to Oregon and stayed with her for three weeks before relocating to the SF Bay area in a 1970s Honda CVCC hatchback with a broken windshield. My friend Rich Barone from Boston College was nice enough to put me up in his apartment in San Francisco for a few weeks while I tried to make a plan. Just when I was about to give up, I heard that a band called The Strangers needed a bassist for a 17 day tour while their bass player went on his honeymoon. It was a blast! Especially taking a solo on "Iko Iko" at Taylor's in Eugene, Oregon on my birthday. The tour gave me enough money to relocate to Fairfax, California which reminded me a little bit of home without the harsh cold. Over the next several years, I frequented local jams and became fairly immersed in the local music scene playing with the world fusion group "Collage of i" who got recorded at the old Sweetwater in Mill Valley and had guests like Joan Baez and Don Cherry sit in with us. I also played with jazz guitarist Archie Williams, singer Jenny Muldaur (her mom Maria Muldaur sat in on "Can't Stand The Rain" one night at Sweetwater), keyboardist Kit Walker, my own jazz group "Free Association", and my first real all original power trio "Bullfrog". My high school guitarist Tim O'Connor moved out here to play with me. Bullfrog managed a tour of Colorado before the drummer quit.
At this point, I had started to collect a pretty good sized roster of weekly bass students so I was able to upgrade my gear and car. I recruited the now freelance drummer Paul Johnson of Psychefunkapus fame to attempt to realize my dream of contributing the next piece of the puzzle in the history of power trios with singing bass players. Paul and I rehearsed every week for four years. We had guitar troubles and went through many, starting with Tim O'Connor and ending up with the young rock genius Alex Korinzer. Scribe put out a self titled full-length CD that was received well by musicians. Mandolin Innovator David Grisman played Mandolin on three tracks! Later, Alex and I recruited drummer Jake Wood to record three more songs for an EP we titled "Freeze" because I had had enough. Without an amazing light and video show, or a famous parent, it has become a monumental task to compete in the rock world of today. Just sayin'.
The Double Bass
I got a stand up bass in 1995 to fulfill the mounting request from jazz band leaders I was working with. Soon I realized that this was no cakewalk and began formal classical lessons with SF Symphony section bassist Charles Chandler. Charles is an amazing bassist and I could not believe the sound he produced. I fell for solo classical bass and soon joined Symphony Parnassus in San Francisco. Bryan Horne of Hot Buttered Rum fame was in my bass section too at the time! Shortly after joining, the conductor Steve Paulson (Principal Bassoonist for SF Symphony) asked me to be principal bass. I gladly accepted, and was fortunate enough to play several great symphonies over the next few years. I also studied with SF Opera Bassist Shinji Eshima, and the great solo bassist Gary Karr. For jazz, I went to the great Mel Graves of Sonoma State University who wanted me to enroll in the school. I also started transcribing the bass lines of Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Rufus Reid, and Paul Chambers. It was around this same time that David Grisman further expanded my musical tastebuds and skills on upright. In fact, I was so moved by David's tremolo that I picked up acoustic guitar again and started an acoustic band called The Pine Needles that plays regularly.