Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jumping into the abyss...

Hello all. I'm going to use this first post to introduce myself and just give you a little background on my musical history and how I ended up where I am.

I've been a singer since I was young; but my first real introduction to formal music didn't come until I was in junior high school. I had a wonderful choir teacher who was really able to instill in me a passion for music. I continued singing until I graduated high school, at which time I auditioned for and received a scholarship to go to college, with one caveat. To earn my scholarship, I had to move out of my classical comfort zone of German art songs and Italian arias and perform in a vocal jazz group that did upwards of 70 shows a year; quite a shift from my roots.

Despite my initial fears, I succeeded, even thrived, in the new environment. I was exposed to new styles and techniques that opened up my musical world in a way that I had never imagined. I was suddenly in more control of my voice than I had ever been before; and had learned that it had many abilities that I was not initially aware of.

At the end of my first year, our bass player graduated college. Though there were other bass players in the area, none of them could hold up the vocal end of the bargain (as the entire rhythm section was required to be, first and foremost, capable singers). The director of the group asked if anyone would be interested in taking a shot at learning to play the bass over the summer. As I had had some basic guitar experience, I cautiously volunteered for the job. The previous bass player sold me one of his old J-basses and I was off on my own.

Over the next two and a half months, I practiced day and night. I was taking summer classes and performing as one of the leads in a large scale musical at the time, so I would take time whenever I could get it. I immediately fell in love with the instrument. I loved the feel of the neck. I loved the vibrations permeating my body when I sat in front of the amp and, most of all, I loved the sound. I loved that rocky thump that could drive the pulse of a tune. I loved that sexy groove created by the little gestures and grace notes that make a band swing.

I still sang, but I suddenly had an entirely new role to play. For awhile I was content to simply explore the electric fretboard, picking up new and interesting techniques as I went along my way; but, as I listened to more and more jazz, the magic of the double bass locked my gaze. The first time a friend of mine every played me an Oscar Peterson record, my head snapped up.

"Who is that bass player?"

"Man...that's Ray Brown."

It was more than the beautifully constructed walking lines. It was that percussive thump, that sexy slide up the fingerboard. It was the deep resonation that came through even on the old recording. From there I discovered the beautifully smooth melodies created by Neils Henning Orsted Pedersen, then the fingerboard mastery of Scott LaFaro, then the playful counterpoint of Christian McBride. The list goes on and on as a new society of great players was built before my eyes. As I delved further into the insturment, my classical beginnings continued to call to me. Not only could I get to the heart of jazz, I could explore the works of my favorite composers from a completely different angle, I would be able to play in the orchestra. I had to get a Double Bass.

Once I had enough money, I bought a vehicle that would allow me to transport an instrument of that size. Now, through the good graces of an amazing local player and college professor, I have an old Kay double bass in my possession. I've been playing all summer on my own, trying to learn to basics and get a feel for the fingerboard. In a few days, I will have a bow and will begin a new adventure. In a month, we start orchestra rehearsal. Alright...here we go.

Wish me luck.

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