Seeing bass god Jaco Pastorius changed Stu Hamm’s life

Stu Hamm - The Urge

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 7, 1991

By Steve Newton

There are rock heroes, and then there are rock heroes’ rock heroes. For virtuoso bassist Stuart Hamm, it was the cosmic abilities of the late Jaco Pastorius that made the most profound impression on him. He couldn’t sleep for two days after seeing the troubled fretmaster.

“I grew up listening to Chris Squire of Yes, and John Entwistle, and Stanley Clarke,” says Hamm, “but when I saw Jaco for the first time it really changed my life. He had what Jimi Hendrix had, which was total control over his instrument; he could express himself totally—physically and musically—with it. I saw him a lotta times later in his life when he was playing really poorly—when he was out of his mind on drugs or something—but that first night, man, it was just unbelievable.”

Since getting his first glimpse of genius, Hamm has performed his own share of awe-inspiring shows with the likes of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and last year he pulled off an unprecedented coup by taking top spot in both the rock and jazz bass categories of readers’ polls taken by Guitar World and Guitar Player magazines. Recently, he released his third solo album, The Urge, expanding his rock ’n’ roll dimensions and, for the first time, singing lead.

But not everyone’s crazy about him stepping up to the microphone, critics in particular. “A lot of people just hate the fact that I’m tryin’ to sing,” says Hamm. “So they cut me down before they hear my voice. It’s all press, though. All part of the master plan.”

Hamm’s master plan includes a North American tour that brings him to Club Soda this Tuesday (November 12). His band includes graduates from a number of Yankee acts, including Blue Oyster Cult, Lita Ford, and Cyndi Lauper, although none of his current bandmates contributed to The Urge, which featured the likes of guitarists Eric Johnson and Buzzy Feiten, and drummers Steve Smith and Tommy Lee.

Hamm admits that the latter name might come as a surprise to those who expected to see more jazz-trained players in the Boston-raised bassist’s band. “It would be easy for me to look at bands like Poison or Motley Crue and say, ‘Oh, those guys can’t play, they’re just posers.’ But we opened for Motley Crue once, and they were one of the best rock bands I ever heard.”

Hamm says the Crue’s Tommy Lee is one of the best drummers he’s played with. “His snare-drum placement is better than anybody’s, and he’s got real style and attitude.”

Hamm was happy to see his two brothers take part in The Urge’s final track, “As Children”. Brother Chris performed a vocal chant, while brother Bruce played the Indian instruments, tamboura and sarod. “My oldest brother Bruce was always one of my heroes,” says Hamm. “I mean, I was the bat boy for his baseball team when it won the city championships. So it was just great to have them both involved. And it made my mom real happy, too.”

Having an opera singer/voice teacher mom and a musicologist dad made the move into music an obvious one for the young Hamm—and judging from the accolades he’s won so far, a good choice. And if Hamm’s musical skills alone aren’t enough to make rock fans want to camp out at Club Soda to see him, there’s always the possibility that a few of his famous friends—who play B.C. Place the next night—might drop in.

“I know Van Halen’s tour manager real well,” says Hamm, “and I know Michael Anthony, so there have been some rumours that maybe the guys are gonna show up and party, maybe sit in. We’ll see what happens.”

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