Vail Johnson: Bassist for Kenny G and Forte Suite fanatic

08 Sep 2010

Vail Johnson has been playing bass for notable artists since the mid-’80s. His credits include Kenny G, Herbie Hancock, Michael Bolton, James Ingram, Stevie Nicks, MC Hammer, Warren Hill, Patti Austin, Frank Gambale, Eric Marienthal, Peabo Bryson, Chante Moore and Freddie Ravel, to name a handful.

But when he's not on stage with Kenny or one of the other stellar artists, he's occupied in his studio, Viking Recorders, where he tracks and mixes contemporary jazz and world beats, with a more country/rock focus starting to creep in after a recent move to Nashville.

Whatever genre the music, his go-to plug-in is the Focusrite Forte Suite, as Vail testifies, "I'm using Forte Suite as an RTAS plug-in in Pro Tools LE. If you're a couple hundred grand short of owning a slew of 110 and 130 processors, then this may be the next best thing! I think that the 110 EQ has a magical mid range that warms up an acoustic guitar track so much like the 'real'  hardware that I would just as soon use the plug- in since it's so easy. I have also used it on Kenny G's soprano [saxophone] with great results. I can mellow it out a little yet retain the trademark brightness."

Vail finds the suite useful for salvaging performaces, too. "I have some great Fender Rhodes tracks that were a little too thick and muddy-sounding and the dynamics of this player were pretty drastic, so they needed help. I plugged in the 110/ 130 module and set a hi pass at 105Hz with a nice, subtle cut in the 300Hz range. Next was a bit of compression, and magically the Rhodes came to life in the mix without cluttering up the space. This is exactly the sort of result we're always looking for, right?" Right.