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Old 08-25-2012, 10:14 PM
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Default McKibbon's old bass

I worked side by side for a week with Al McKibbon (1919-2005) in the pit at Westbury Music Fair, 'theater in the round' in the late 70s or so. I was playing for Linda Hopkins, a Gospel singer in the limelight having worked on Broadway. Al was playing for Sammy Davie Jr.. Each night Sammy's M.D. would start and conduct the overture for the show of which Hopkins was the opener. Then Al would put his bass down and I would play the show for Hopkins with the hired Pit Orchestra. Some other personnel that traveled with Davis would do the same as Al. After her show is was intermission. Then Sammy's guys and the rest of the Pit players did his show. I even spoke briefly with Sammy one night. Nice and real person is all I can say.

I got to play Al's bass a few times here and there during the week. I must mention that I was playing my old Italian bass that was later sold as a Rogeri. The last time it traded hands a few years ago, it had been converted to a 5-string and sold to a European Orchestra for nearly $200k. So, Al's bass was beautiful but only interesting in that it was different than mine, way different. He had always called his bass a Stainer and when it sold at Robertson's a few years ago, it was still listed as a Stainer but from Markneukirchen which was no where near where Stainer was from or ever worked. I think I discussed it with them and they agreed it was closer to an early 19th century bass, possibly Austrian or German rather than a 17th century Stainer. Still, it was/is a beautiful old and original 'makers' bass. In 2009 at the ISB, it was on display but strung up with solo strings. It sounded nothing like what I remember but 30 years can do that to your ears and memory!

I just found some pics of him and his bass on line so I thought I would share. Also, one night after the show, I had brought in my camera and took some pictures of the two basses, some of his bass and some of him with his bass in hand as well as holding both basses side by side. I can't share them now as I don't have a working scanner but maybe some day. One thing I noticed and now looking back at what I have learned of old basses was this. Round backs were rare on basses from that region then, especially in Austria and we rarely see any German bass before 1800 without a flat back as well. His bass also has outside linings but they are flush with the top and back. That to me is a cross between Bohemia and Germany, hence Markneukirchen (the melting pot) and post 1800. I just bought a bass in Europe with the same flush rib/lining style, round back and also a similar varnish. Just a coincidence I think. Here are the pics, 2 of him and the others of my bass that's on the way to compare. Both old German school.
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