Early Elton
John Conte (bass and vocals)

John has been an in demand bassist for studio work in NYC and Live touring for the past 2 decades. He has released 3 independent records of his own with his bands "The Contes" and "Crown Jewels",  the latter of which was voted one of the top unsigned bands in the USA by Musician Magazine in 1998. John was also a member of Mercury/Polygram recording artrists "Company of Wolves", releasing  a Billboard 200 rock album in 1990.

Current projects include: Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Ben Neil's XIX, chiildren's Rock and Roll band "Leo's Mom", Prisoners of 2nd Avenue and the singer/songwriter Danielle Evin (Vapor Records).

Other Artists that John has recorded or performed with include:

Marc Cohn
Rosanne Cash
Levon Helm
Joan Osborne
Peter Wolf
Ian Hunter
Phoebe Snow
Johnnie Johnson
Rachael Yamagata
David Bowie
Jon Bon Jovi
John Waite
Billy Joel
Simon Kirke (Bad Co.)


Two questions for John on the music of Early Elton:

What led you to want to play the music of Early Elton in with this particular group?

Well, in Elton's early days of touring, the band was strictly a trio made up of Elton, Dee Murray &Nigel Olsson. They were doing something that, to my knowledge, nobody else was doing—or at the very least, no one else was getting attention for doing—and that was rocking out in a trio without a guitarist! That basic trio was not lacking musically in any way—solid, exciting, dynamic, great songwriting plus interesting interplay and improvisation between all the cats…and they all sang well.

Having spent the better part of my musical career playing in standard guitar/bass/drums trios—a departure from that setup is welcoming to me.  In this band, I am excited about the different creative possibilities that I own as the only fretted insrument!

What about the music of Early Elton John attracts you?

When I first heard the Live "11-17-70 " album 20 something years ago, it smacked me right in the face of just how steeped in American Blues, Soul & Gospel music that Elton and his band were. As a bassist, I've always tried to channel the spirit and feeling of the players on those old Soul and R & B records from the 60's and 70's—that stuff is very close to my heart.

Dee Murray's bass playing was always supportive—but not strictly invisible—he was melodic, colorful or slippery just at the right moment . It's astonishing how much sound they made for a trio on those live performances from that Early '70's era and the scope of musical landscapes they could travel over—barrelhouse Rock n' Roll, Stones-ey swagger, Brian Wilson-esque Pop, Gospel, Soul, Country twang, moody ballads—but it all works, like combining many colors to paint one picture.

Generally, Elton's first 3 or 4 records are more rootsy—simple, stripped down and compared to the records that he would later make, there is a significant absence of slick studio production, synthesizers or gimmicks—leaving the listener touched by the melody, lyrics and performances.