The list of innovative artists that bassist Tim Lefevbre has supported over the years is mind-blowing. He has held down the bottom end for (among countless others) Chris Botti, Toto, Sting, Uri Caine, and Donald Fagen. He’s subbed in the Saturday Night Live band, and has written for and played on soundtracks including The Sopranos, Oceans 12, and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. He regularly appears near the top of popular musician magazine polls, and somehow finds time to produce and record with… well, just about anyone.
I talked with Tim on a rare day off from the road, at home in Los Angeles.
“I’m actually in my apartment,” he says. “It’s a miracle.”
Tim’s move from New York City to LA in 2011 gave his already busy schedule a jolt of adrenaline. “Everything bumped up a couple of notches once I moved here. It’s pretty nuts.” Last November he appeared on the cover of Bass Player Magazine.
A Native of Foxboro, Massachusetts (he’s an obsessive New England Patriots fan), Tim discovered music both at home and in school.
“My Dad was a music teacher and we all played. My high school band director was also very influential in that process. Whether you were talented or not, he made you into a competent musician. That was a pretty amazing thing. “
Tim was attracted to the bass right from the start.
“Because I was playing guitar all the time on one string, my Dad declared me a bass player. Accurately, I will say.”
After graduating from college (where he earned a degree in economics and political science while moonlighting with players from the esteemed Eastman School of Music), Tim was initially discouraged by his parents from becoming a full-time musician. “But,” he confesses, “I had the bug.” His first gig was on a cruise ship. “It was with these old, grizzled veterans, and they hated me. Of course that motivated me to get better.”
After moving to New York, Tim was introduced to many of the city’s better players when he joined the band of vocalist Leni Stern (wife of jazz guitar great Mike Stern). “But what really blew the doors off,” he says, “was when I played in Wayne Krantz’s trio with Keith Carlock.” Many consider that band revolutionary. “It broke down doors on how to improvise, but play compositionally at the same time. Just the sound of it; nobody was playing that way back then.” The band had a weekly gig at The 55 Bar in downtown New York for years. “To this day,” he says, “people still come up to me and say, ‘I saw you at The 55 Bar.'”
Tim went on to become one of the most sought-after bass players in NYC, and toured consistently with marquee artists. But after more than a decade, New York began to lose its luster, and Tim set out for the sunny shores of California. Of course, it wasn’t long before word got around.
“When I moved to LA, my name started popping up in different circles. I played on David Letterman with Donald Fagen, and his guitar player was writing with Tedeschi Trucks. He later saw me play with Wayne and Keith, and was sort of taken aback. He liked the connection I had with Wayne, and mentioned it to Derek Trucks.”
About the same time, the Tedeschi Trucks Band needed a new bassist and had been auditioning players for most of the year. “The try-outs are not in some room,” Tim explains. “You actually do gigs; you’re in the band for a second. So I went out and auditioned for five shows, and lo and behold, I got the gig. It’ll be two years in September.”
TTB does about 150 gigs per year. “We played New Orleans Jazz Fest, and it looked like there were 20 or 30 thousand people out there. It’s rock n’ roll, man; a whole different thing.”
With it’s roots in the jam scene pioneered by the Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead, TTB benefits greatly from Tim’s jazz background and ability to improvise in any musical situation. “I always had a good feel for rock and funk. The music is moving, but you’re still playing a song.”
Last year, 3Leaf Audio introduced the “Octavbre” effect pedal. Handcrafted in Seattle by electronics wizard Spencer Doren, it highlights some of the unique sonic characteristics for which Tim is known.
“I was doing a lot of drum and bass in the early 2000s,” Tim explains, “when we were kind of re-engineering electronica. The octave pedal was the starting point for it all. I’ve done so much with it over the years that it’s become a big part of my sound.”
Spencer at 3Leaf is also a bass player and long-time Lefevbre fan. “I would watch youtube videos of Tim using his Boss OC-2 (octave pedal) on stage, and he would bend down in the middle of songs to turn off the dry signal.” With the Octabvre, he wanted to make something that copped the OC-2 vibe but could toggle between a standard octave pedal and the sub-only sound that Tim made popular. “So I added a second foot switch that cuts the dry signal, and named the pedal after Tim since he inspired the design.”
“The kid’s a genius,” Tim raves. “He’s young, engaging, and very talented. I’m flattered, and use that pedal all the time.”
Off the road, it’s not unusual to find Tim in a recording studio. “All these things keep popping up, people you don’t know, but the music is amazing. There’s a lot of record going on in LA; it’s really fun.”
Unlike the halcyon days of the late 20th Century, there is little to be gained financially in studio work these days. Tim’s fine with that. “It’s about what interests me,” he says. “Making music is an obsession. There’s no money in making records anymore, but it still needs to be done, just for artistic sake.”
Tim played a part in inspiring the creation of SoundGears – read about it here.