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  #101  
Old 04-14-2009, 02:43 PM
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Thumbs up Humble Caretakers...

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Powell View Post
And so it is! This bass and the restoration of it brought me into bass forums as a participant instead of a "reader", for better or worse. What an inspiration, Mr. Smith. Thank-you for doing this one so proud.

I think the process on this bass encapsulates what I have felt about musical instruments ever since my father passed several years ago and I adopted his old Harmony 173, a rather humble classical guitar, but with one of the most beautiful spruce tops I've ever seen. It too was unplayable when I brought it home, and now it intonates quite well after my efforts.

We don't really own these instruments;- ever. Once created they have an immortal potential that humans do not. We are at best humble caretakers that can make some art from them in a single lifetime, but these instruments are just getting started on their many journeys, however old we perceive them to be. You brought it back to life, Ken. Now it's your turn to create with it. Best to you always,

Silversorcerer

Well, I agree about the Caretaker position. Besides all the work that has been done, it is still not where I want the Bass. I have it packed up and am sending it down to Jeff Bollbach to have a few things tweaked as well as having him make and install a Chromatic C-Extension like the one he made for my Bisiach labeled Bass.

The Neck heel was way higher than what I wanted but Biase wanted to stop at that point and have me play it for awhile before removing any wood that can't be replaced. I had giving him the Neck/Heel specs off of my Martini to sort of copy but still he left it a little heavy.

After a single rehearsal I put the Bass away until I could have this done. Last week I made the decision that driving back and forth to NYC a minimum of 2 times is more work and expense than if I just cut it down myself to what I really want which can only be done here by tweaking it daily as I play the neck in an unfinished state until it's just where I want it. I now have the neck just about there but the top of Heel and throat underside under the Peg Box needs to be Varnished back up to match. I decided that it would be best to just let Jeff finish this off from here as well as a few touch-ups along with the Extension job than driving into the city which will cost me more in time that it's worth even thought the work will be free of charge from Biase.

So, there will eventually a whole new set of pictures taken on this when the C-Extension is done and the re-carved Neck & Heel are all varnished up. The Heel will look about half the size as it does now as well as the neck and profile being thinner overall to better match the Martini.

It's not over till it's over..
  #102  
Old 04-15-2009, 09:09 AM
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Eric Swanson Eric Swanson is offline
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Dear God, that is a beautiful bass.

Congratulations, Ken, on having the faith and vision to make this happen.

I hope that playing it gives you many hours of joy.
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  #103  
Old 04-15-2009, 10:52 AM
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Thumbs up thanks..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Swanson View Post
Dear God, that is a beautiful bass.

Congratulations, Ken, on having the faith and vision to make this happen.

I hope that playing it gives you many hours of joy.
I should know in a day or so if I have my booth/room set for the June ISB. If so and all goes well with Jeff's work, 'Big Ben' will be on display at the Show along with a few of my other Basses that are fully restored and sale-ready.
  #104  
Old 06-01-2009, 05:25 PM
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Thumbs up yup..

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Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
I should know in a day or so if I have my booth/room set for the June ISB. If so and all goes well with Jeff's work, 'Big Ben' will be on display at the Show along with a few of my other Basses that are fully restored and sale-ready.
'Big Ben' is sitting in the rack a few feet from my desk. I picked it up Saturday and even stopped by Arnold's to show him the Bass as well. My Evah's were there to be put on my Lott model Bass after the Extension but that job was put on hold so I put them on 'Big Ben' instead and used ones of Arnold's benches while he touched up my modern Lott Bass which is now ready for the ISB as well.

Big Ben, aka Gamba Supreme will be at the ISB. It's a Bass NOT to miss! Trust me on that. The sound is in the class of my attributed Storioni. An Organ with Strings on it!

The C-Extension came out beautifully as well so a big thanks to Jeff Bollbach who also did a few tweaks on the Bass to say the least. "Dr. Arnold" had the last word as I had him look it over just in case he had any thoughts of his own.

This is a Bass I could keep and use for everything short of a tight spaced Pit job as she does have some girth on her to contend with, upper and lower. She measures about 60"-48"-86" in case you were thinking of taking her out for a spin..
  #105  
Old 06-18-2009, 05:01 PM
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Lightbulb BB at the ISB

Ok, I am back from the Show now a few days and recovering from the long hours I have been putting in over the last few weeks between my two branches of the business, the DB's and the Smith products.

Big Ben as we now call it (or is it Gamba Supreme? I forgot..) was a HIT at the ISB. Everyone who played it stopped after a few notes or just after the 'A' sting and paused before continuing. I was told by many people that it was the best Bass at the ISB. Just about every dealer came over to check it out as well after hearing all the talk about it.

Several of them examined the bass carefully trying to figure out what it was. They all were puzzled and said things like, 'I'm not sure", "Very difficult, very..", I'll have to think about it", "ENGLISH".. the usual call and then I heard one dealer whisper to another, "Gagliano?"...

So, even after several first hand looks at it, we are about where we started some 5+ years ago. The Bass even has some old Mittenwald qualities to it but we are not sure what exactly is original on the bass as well as the lower bout shape which one dealer/maker thought it could have been cut down even in that area as well as the outer Bouts which do not have any purfling left either.

So, she is big, she it powerful, she is beautiful, sweet sounding, colorful and complex sounding and she's big.. I said big twice, I know.. lol

What is it? A big and quality sounding bass that is actually fairly easy to play. One of the European pros performing at the ISB mentioned that it's a very special bass as fat as good basses go and was playing on it as if it was a solo bass hitting the high harmonics and double stops with the greatest of ease.

I was told by two pros there giving me separate informal private lessons in the booth that I needed to pick ONE bass and play it. Part of my problem in playing is that I switch back and forth between basses which have different lengths and measurements making hand position training impossible. Maybe I should just play this one and leave the others in the rack just for sale. In NYC when I made my living playing bass, I used one instrument primarily for about 15 years. Maybe that's what I really need to do again. Play only one bass for the most part, practicing and performing. Sitting, standing, classical or jazz, whatever. Just one main bass..

This was the second old bass I bought this time around when I started playing again about 8 years ago. The Batchelder was the first and that was just sold. My intention was to have this fixed and use it for myself. Sounds like I should stick with that original plan. These other basses I have been buying for my hobby/business has become such a distraction....
  #106  
Old 06-21-2009, 05:49 AM
Joel Larsson Joel Larsson is offline
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I am happy about your successful restoration and the pride you seem to feel towards this bass. It doesn't sound like using this one as a main bass would be a bad idea, does it..?
You should allow yourself to have a special relationship to your main bass, that's my opinion. Despite owning at least one da Salo and countless other excellent instruments, and having to sell off almost everything he owned in times of financial difficulty, Bottesini kept his Testore to the end. You certainly seem to have a less "professional" approach to this instrument already! And just imagine what the BB might sound like after it's had some time to break in and open up..! How about you go for it??
  #107  
Old 06-21-2009, 10:04 AM
Phil Maneri Phil Maneri is offline
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I agree with the one bass for everything, it's an approach I've been taking since buying my #1 bass. Even taking it places I "shouldn't" like outside. I find that I really just want to play that bass for everything regardless of the circumstances. It's the dancing partner and I learn more about her as we become really acquainted.
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  #108  
Old 06-21-2009, 12:13 PM
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Cool one bass for everything, but..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Maneri View Post
I agree with the one bass for everything, it's an approach I've been taking since buying my #1 bass. Even taking it places I "shouldn't" like outside. I find that I really just want to play that bass for everything regardless of the circumstances. It's the dancing partner and I learn more about her as we become really acquainted.
For some reason, I keep going back to the Martini. Ever since the last restoration with a slight modification done to the Back as well, the Bass has been sounding better and better.

A few days ago someone was playing the Basses for me and me for him, testing them for an Orchestra client. The Gilkes(Jilkes) sounded huge as usual, the Big Gamba was a bit bigger sounding and deeper but the Martini was within 90% of the other two in power (closer than usual) and the tone was the best overall. The G and D were the biggest sounding on the Martini over the other two. The Gilkes is fairly even and the Gamba very bottom-like but the Martin now re-strung with a slightly used set of BelCantos (switched the Flex 92s with the Bel's on the Hart), the Bass sounds bigger and better than ever.

Last night I played them both again, the Martini and the Gamba. This is a tough choice. For big bottom orchestra or fat jazz pizz, the Gamba wins. For solo and sweet tone but still with more volume than the average bass, the Martini wins.

I noticed something a bit strange but good at the ISB. Someone was playing the Gamba and it was huge, shaking the floor and walls. Then while that was going on, someone else took the Martini off the stand and started playing it. These were all good orchestra players here, no beginners. The sound of the Martini cut right thru the middle and top of the Gamba like a hot knife thru a pound of butter. I was very surprised but in a happy way. The Martini being just about the most comfortable bass to play within the group I have now.

All this will change in a year or so when the Storioni is out of restoration. That Bass has the power, depth, sweetness and playability of all the basses combined. Some say the Gamba sounds like the Storioni on steroids but they haven't heard the Storioni restored yet, nor has anyone.

For now, I will keep my practice on the Martini since I am more used to it. The Gamba will go out when I think it fits the job. For upper solo work within the Orchestra rep, I'm not ready for it on the Gamba. The reach over the shoulders are a bit more than I'm used to and intonation is not an option!

One other thing I noticed is how different the basses sound sometimes when various people play them. This is the puzzling factor. How do I sound between all the basses? Which Bass do I play the best and with enough volume as well? Listening to the Martini in comparison to the Gilkes, Hart and Gamba is almost unfair as these are not your average sounding basses at all. They have always made me think less of the Martini when comparing. That is over now. The Martini can hold it's own as I've heard it cut thru the Gamba. That's enough proof for me right there.

So, Big Ben will have its time when the setting is just right. I would love to use it in a rhythm section. It just kills with the Evah's on there now. Next string change might be Evah Weichs which I had on it before but didn't have an Extension E/C. I heard they are available now so it's on the menu, some day..
  #109  
Old 06-24-2009, 05:00 PM
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Lightbulb ok, so..

At the ISB I was fortunate to have met with Michael Krahmer from Pollmann, the cheif maker (along with his younger brother Ralph) and a respected Bass expert as well.

Michael put the bass up on a stool on its back and had a look inside and out but without a needed light. Then upon examining the lower bass-side corner a 'smoking gun' came out. Under all the Varnish and repairs the C-Bout Purfling coming down on the Bass side crosses over the Lower Bout Purfling coming up to the C-Bout as well as a small Joint exposed between the edge and the Top just where the Purfling route joins the Top under the Corner.

Conclusion, 'estimate'? This Bass was CUT down. It is huge now but was even wider as I suspected on both the upper and Lower Bouts as the Bouts themselves have no Purfling at all. The Purfling runs only along the Top and Bottom Block areas as well as the C-Bouts but the edges have worn there. I was told that this was wear but the 'lines' of the Bouts tell me a different story with about 1/2" missing in width of each bout, about 1" overall Top and Bottom. That was my initial feeling some 5 years ago and now I am reassured that my eyes and brain were working just fine back then.

Those soft lower Corners, one of the big mysteries up until now is actually a later modification, we think!

Just as we were trying to pick the period and location of the maker in England we find this out. Still, the modelling and mix of flavors point to English but by who, where or when?

So, as far as origin goes, we are still not certain. As far as construction goes, the Bass was bigger originally in the width, not necessarly the length by much. The re-curve is only evident at the Top Bout so the Bass could have been an inch longer as well with the Purfling being replaced as evident up at that suspicious lower bout corner.

I owe this discovery(we think) to Michael Krahmer as everyone else missed it.
  #110  
Old 06-29-2009, 02:16 PM
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Question Decisions, decisions, decisions..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
For some reason, I keep going back to the Martini. Ever since the last restoration with a slight modification done to the Back as well, the Bass has been sounding better and better.

A few days ago someone was playing the Basses for me and me for him, testing them for an Orchestra client. The Gilkes(Jilkes) sounded huge as usual, the Big Gamba was a bit bigger sounding and deeper but the Martini was within 90% of the other two in power (closer than usual) and the tone was the best overall. The G and D were the biggest sounding on the Martini over the other two. The Gilkes is fairly even and the Gamba very bottom-like but the Martin now re-strung with a slightly used set of BelCantos (switched the Flex 92s with the Bel's on the Hart), the Bass sounds bigger and better than ever.

Last night I played them both again, the Martini and the Gamba. This is a tough choice. For big bottom orchestra or fat jazz pizz, the Gamba wins. For solo and sweet tone but still with more volume than the average bass, the Martini wins.

I noticed something a bit strange but good at the ISB. Someone was playing the Gamba and it was huge, shaking the floor and walls. Then while that was going on, someone else took the Martini off the stand and started playing it. These were all good orchestra players here, no beginners. The sound of the Martini cut right thru the middle and top of the Gamba like a hot knife thru a pound of butter. I was very surprised but in a happy way. The Martini being just about the most comfortable bass to play within the group I have now.

All this will change in a year or so when the Storioni is out of restoration. That Bass has the power, depth, sweetness and playability of all the basses combined. Some say the Gamba sounds like the Storioni on steroids but they haven't heard the Storioni restored yet, nor has anyone.

For now, I will keep my practice on the Martini since I am more used to it. The Gamba will go out when I think it fits the job. For upper solo work within the Orchestra rep, I'm not ready for it on the Gamba. The reach over the shoulders are a bit more than I'm used to and intonation is not an option!

One other thing I noticed is how different the basses sound sometimes when various people play them. This is the puzzling factor. How do I sound between all the basses? Which Bass do I play the best and with enough volume as well? Listening to the Martini in comparison to the Gilkes, Hart and Gamba is almost unfair as these are not your average sounding basses at all. They have always made me think less of the Martini when comparing. That is over now. The Martini can hold it's own as I've heard it cut thru the Gamba. That's enough proof for me right there.

So, Big Ben will have its time when the setting is just right. I would love to use it in a rhythm section. It just kills with the Evah's on there now. Next string change might be Evah Weichs which I had on it before but didn't have an Extension E/C. I heard they are available now so it's on the menu, some day..
Ok, ok.. for the last week I have been changing favorites more often than I had meals. At least twice a day, for real.

Last week I had an outdoor concert, the last of the season and took out the Big Gamba to play. I was able to hear everything bowed or pizz'd including the C-Extension notes. We were set up in the Grass but I demanded a carpet so I wouldn't be standing over anything wet with my Bass or Shoes at risk. It rained for about an hour just before we started to play but we had dry sunshine for the Concert.

I was almost set on just playing just the Martini for everything and then went to the Hart for the easier Eb reach and then the Gilkes for the same but more presence and then back to the Martini for the heavy bottom and D neck and then back to the Gilkes. Then today I A-B'd all the Basses again sitting as well this time (which I do normally in concert) and the Gamba just seems to 'spit' the notes out quicker and easier. This bass has Evah's on it but so did the Gilkes in the past but never played or sounded as good as it does now as far as these strings go so it's not the strings. The Gilkes and Martini both have the Bel's on and that's the best they've sounded with the Hart strung with 92s at the moment.

I just think that with all things weighed in, the 'Gamba' pushes out more sound with less effort overall. The Shoulders are something to get over and the Neck Heel barely a D (which can be fixed) but all in all, it's the most fun to play, especially if I have some Pizz. Also, it just kills for jazz as it is.

So, 5 years plus on this Mystery Bass, its restoration and now its place in the 'rack' saga. 'First Bass' is my appointment for the Gamba. It looks the part too..
  #111  
Old 11-04-2009, 03:49 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Thumbs up update..

This Bass has now been Sold. As it turns out, the Martini (sold now as well) and Hart Basses are closer to what I am used to as far as body size goes. After playing this Bass a few times I came to realize that it is just a bit too big for me the way I play now.

It was fun these past few years searching and discovering as well as discussing all the possibilities and finds. This particular 'saga' has now come to an end as far as being in my possession. A very talented professional Orchestra player now owns and plays the 'Big Gamba' on a daily basis. 'Big Ben' has a new home and will be played and loved daily..

Last edited by Ken Smith; 10-16-2012 at 01:28 PM. Reason: The Martini has been sold as well.
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