The day after tomorrow I complete my 71st revolution around the sun and for about 2/3 of those years, I’ve owned an upright bass. I guess that makes me a bass player for close to 50 years. For those of you not in the know; the uninformed and otherwise oblivious, I’ve been claiming to be one in this space since I started writing welcome columns 9 years ago. However, I won’t claim to have been a bass player for all those 50 years because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count if you don’t pick up the bass and play it. Oh, I did play in fits and spurts, taking lessons and playing in small jam groups at different times in different styles and genres but there were substantial amounts of time where my bass was just an interesting piece of furniture decorating my living room.
Over my half century, I have had 5 upright basses. This does not count my first pawn shop electric bass I bought and sold in the same pawn shop about 3 times. Heck, money could be tight back then. I’m also not counting either my resonator bass or my 1975 Fender Mustang, both that I still have.
As for my uprights, I have had three Kays and the other two were Romanian hunks. They all have a story, probably not for this column but go ahead and ask if you’re interested. I was proud to donate my ¼ size Kay to CBA Kids Academy where I hoped that it helped some young musicians to get an appreciation of playing bass.
I still own two of them, one of the Romanian’s is in Steve Swan’s bass shop on consignment and the other one is my current axe, a 1939 Kay M1 bass.
Kay started making basses in late 1937 according to my recollection of their story. My girl was made in early 1939, number 4835. She is a strawberry blonde with some fine grain markings on the top. I don’t believe that was the original color but rather in one of her makeovers the dark brown typical bass color was removed to show the grain of the plywood. That’s right, it is a plywood bass so you wouldn’t find it or any of its relatives in the symphony but that isn’t a problem because I’m not getting any classical calls but plywood basses are certainly more than acceptable and even desired for all the music I am (trying) to play.
It’s quite possible that I lost many of you readers already, but I’m going to forge ahead. I writing about my bass and my half century of experience because I zoomed another webinar last week with the Berklee School of Music Bass Department and got reinspired to play bass again. I have attended 6 or so of these webinars while serving my pandemic jail sentence and always find them quite motivating. Truth be told, lately they haven’t been as appealing to me in regards to the styles and topics they have been covering but last week’s webinar featured some heavy bass hitters, mostly prolific jazz players. I won’t list them all here, out of kindness dear readers, but rest assured these were not bluegrass players. However, seeing pros talk about practice habits and how they get back to fundamentals when there are not gigs to rehearse for these days, I found that pretty inspiring.
It turns out that I have been neglecting my bass playing lately and the webinar drove me back to pick it up and play. I have been spending my time recording. Linda is singing and playing a few of her bluegrass jam standards and I have been producing and engineering the recordings. Before we finish the project, the plan is for me to lay down bass tracks hopefully rounding out the performances. The release date for the CD is TBD.
Previously, I recorded some tracks of bass lines I have been working on and sent them on to my friends and music partners but that has run its course for me. So now I’m back to woodshedding on the bass to improve my chops and technique and it feels pretty dang good and with nothing but pandemic time on my hands, I’m able to work on both my bass chops and recording our songs.
So, I’m looking forward to starting my 72nd revolution with a couple of inspiring projects to get me through the dark days of winter and keep me busy until the vaccine comes.
I’ll see you next month. Until then I hope you all can stay reasonably sane.