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  #1  
Old 04-29-2008, 01:11 AM
Vince Mendoza Vince Mendoza is offline
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Default Kind of bass Paul Chambers, et al played

Hello all:

I'm new here (this is actually my first post), so please pardon if this seems like a naive question. I wonder if anyone knows the kind of instrument jazz bassists like Paul Chambers, Doug Watkins and Sam Jones played? Were they carved pedigreed basses or laminated ones?

Thank you.
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  #2  
Old 04-29-2008, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Mendoza View Post
Hello all:

I'm new here (this is actually my first post), so please pardon if this seems like a naive question. I wonder if anyone knows the kind of instrument jazz bassists like Paul Chambers, Doug Watkins and Sam Jones played? Were they carved pedigreed basses or laminated ones?

Thank you.
Well, in growing up in New York with Bass in hand in the mid-late 60s, I just missed Paul Chambers. He died about when I joined the Union. I did however see his Bass in pictures and asked one Luthier about that carved Ladies Head on the top of the Neck/Scroll. The Bass was a Germanic Shop type Bass from the late 19th-early 20th century or so. The Head was added by him I heard but in either case, it was not part of that Bass.

Andre' Fantoni the Luthier in NY I knew told me how Doug Watkins died in a car accident I think and at an early age. Fantoni in his late 70s or older then said 'he was a nice boy' having been old enough to be his grandfather when he knew him. I don't know what kind of Bass he had but from a few pictures I had seen I suspect some type of Germanic shop Bass as well. Very generic looking.

Sam Jones worked around NY and I had met him many times including sitting in on his Bass at a duo gig (Bass/Guitar) when he was subbing for Reggie Workman, my teacher at the time. His was an older late 19th century German Bass made possible by Hornsteiner aka Neuner-Hornsteiner. I have seen several of these Basses both in Gamba shape and with Bussetto lower corners.

None of the three great players listed above used expensive pedigree Basses but I have seen some 'YouTube's' with Sam Jones playing a nicer looking Bass. Maybe he owned others in his time or as it was common, rented a nice Bass somewhere while on tour.

There are however some Bassists in Jazz that had some better Basses. We have discussed this on TalkBass and some of the Basses they were known to own may not be by the maker the Basses are claimed to be. Eugene Wright, Scott LaFaro, Arvel Shaw and Reggie Workman were all known to play a Prescott Bass. In my opinion after seeing 3 of these 4 Basses in person and pictures of the 4th, the only Genuine Prescott in the group is the 'Wright Bass. The others, while made in the Prescott style are by other Yankee Makers. The 'Workman Bass may be even earlier possibly by a guy named Willard who may have taught Prescott. It has the same scroll as a Willard Church Bass I have seen. The 'Shaw Bass is also another maker and nicer looking than Prescotts especially in the Scroll. The Lafaro Bass and the other 3 do not have Prescott Scrolls or FFs that were one of only 2 styles each he used and I have seen all examples mentioned made by Prescott.

Reggie Workman also has a 4/4 German Bass by Seitz of Mittenwald. I have played that Bass and it's great. Percy Heath played a nice Gamba shaped old Italian Bass that has been attributed to a few different makers. Most recently to Ruggeri or Rogeri. I am not 100% sure on that. Ray Brown at one time had a Bass bought for him by Ella Fitzgerald from the Hill shop in London as a Niccolo Amati. I have seen 1 of the other 3 Basses known by the same 'British' maker as Ray's Bass and it's not even Italian much less an Amati. It is a fine Panormo era (or earlier) British Bass which 3 of them emanated out of Scotland in the 20th century. They were possibly made as a set for an Orchestra back then and sent there from somewhere in the UK or were made in Scotland which is not out of the question either. That's the Bass in his book with the high shoulders and the open key tuner handles. Other Basses I have seen him play were either German or one French Gamba Jacquet style Bass on a 'YouTube'. I also saw an old Utube with Ella and Ray in London where he had a cornerless Italian bass that looked to be a Baldontoni. Surely this was rented for him, I assume. It's the only time I've seen him with that Bass.

Charlie Hayden has had several fine French Basses that we have seen and I think I have seen a French Pear Bass in the hands of Gene Taylor at a rehearsal once. Another player whose name escapes me had a Kennedy and Rick Laird (from Mahavishnu and Chick Korea) has an English Bass by James Brown. Eddie Gomez had some nice Basses as well as George Mraz who bought a Bernadel from me in the late '70s.

Several Jazz players have been able to acquire some nice Basses but for that short jazz-pizz sound/attack, the greatest Italian Orchestral Bass is not always best, nor are they affordable now.
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Old 04-29-2008, 10:47 PM
Vince Mendoza Vince Mendoza is offline
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Thanks very much for your reply, Ken. It was very enlightening, to say the least. I've always wondered what these great jazz bassists played and could never get any answer on the Internet until now.

Just a couple more questions here, however:
1. What is a "Germanic Shop type bass"? Are they basses made in the style of a particular school of bass-making, perhaps with German origins? And were they laminated or hybrid basses?

2. You mentioned that "for that short jazz-pizz sound/attack, the greatest Italian Orchestral bass is not always best." In your opinion, is a laminated or hybrid bass more preferable for jazz then?

3. Having played both upright and electric bass, did you personally find it difficult to move from upright to electric? And could one realistically do self-study with the upright? Although I read music and am well-versed in theory, I'm self-taught on the electric.

Thank you for your help.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Mendoza View Post
Thanks very much for your reply, Ken. It was very enlightening, to say the least. I've always wondered what these great jazz bassists played and could never get any answer on the Internet until now.

Just a couple more questions here, however:
1. What is a "Germanic Shop type bass"? Are they basses made in the style of a particular school of bass-making, perhaps with German origins? And were they laminated or hybrid basses?

2. You mentioned that "for that short jazz-pizz sound/attack, the greatest Italian Orchestral bass is not always best." In your opinion, is a laminated or hybrid bass more preferable for jazz then?

3. Having played both upright and electric bass, did you personally find it difficult to move from upright to electric? And could one realistically do self-study with the upright? Although I read music and am well-versed in theory, I'm self-taught on the electric.

Thank you for your help.
I see #3 as really 3 and 4.. so let's begin. I will use numbers to refer to each question and have 3a and 3b.

1) Germanic Shop Basses and similar Basses were made in Shops and Factories all over Germany as well as the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Bohemia and parts of Austria bordering Germany and Czech. Read my section on these styles of Basses in the Link above. Also, I am referring to fully carved Basses. Laminated or Hybrids were also made in the same generic shapes but I have not referenced them in this thread yet.

2) Going from great Italian Basses to Laminated and Hybrids is like going from Earth to Jupiter in a single leap. Anything with plywood will be lacking that free wood vibration. Hybrids in general are mainly a 20th century introduction. As far as Plywoods go, Google YouTube for Milt Hinton and Slam Stewart. They both used American made Kay Basses. I don't know how they made those Basses sound so sweet. Might as well been a master grade Italian..

3a) I played the Electric Bass mainly with the same technique that I play the Upright. There are some things though that are completely different technically but I do not approach it as a Guitar by any means technique wise.
3b) If you want to play this large life sized Violin looking instrument we call the Double bass and enjoy it, study it properly and get a teacher that is Classically trained if not a Symphony player directly. I cannot stress that enough. The technique is so much more refined. The Great Jazz players like Reggie Workman , Stanley Clarke and Eddie Gomez were all Classically trained. This I know for a fact because I know them all personally and who they studied with. From the looks of it, Paul Chambers and Ray Brown were also Classically trained. How you train and how you play may be very different but if you don't train well, you playing may suffer for it or rather from a lack of it.
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  #5  
Old 04-30-2008, 08:27 AM
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Eric Swanson Eric Swanson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Mendoza View Post

3. Having played both upright and electric bass, did you personally find it difficult to move from upright to electric? And could one realistically do self-study with the upright? Although I read music and am well-versed in theory, I'm self-taught on the electric.

Thank you for your help.
I am now an amateur, weekend-warrior-type player, so take this with a grain of salt (or two). That said, I studied 'cello with several good teachers before I got to EB (mostly self taught) at 14, then DB at 15 (or so). At that point, my theory and reading were decent and I was playing on EB in small and large jazz bands. I flailed around on DB with method books on my own, mostly out of some combination of slim cash flow and teenage ignorance/arrogance.

I was lucky enough to get a great teacher (jazz virtuoso, former National Symphony player, composer, and conductor Terry Plumeri, who studied with the former NYPhil Principal, Robert Brennand).

I learned more in my first month with him than I had "taught" myself (badly) in 2-3 years of nonstop flailing and playing publicly, out of tune. Through Terry, I also got to meet and take a lesson with Mr. Brennand (whose ease, talent, and tone I will never forget). Later, I got to study with Lew Norton (former NYPhil, for decades, amazingly large sound, great, generous, funny, no-nonsense guy) and very briefly, with George Mraz (jazz virtuoso and overall amazing player, with or without the bow). All these players had overcome the physical challenges of the instrument.

They all helped me see past the significant resistance and geographical obstacles of the bass. They opened me to possibilities that I never could have imagined on my own. They also taught me some key stuff about humility in the face of the music, service to their art, and rigorous, fearless honesty. I never would have learned any of that on my own.

Part of having a teacher who can really play, for me, was about seeing not only that greatness and freedom are attainable, but learning how to go about trying to get some small piece of that. Much easier than reinventing the wheel.

I was never an orchestral player on bass (except really pretty badly, in school). I always played jazz, blues, etc. That said, studying with folks who, as Ken said, either played in an orchestra or studied along those lines was key. Thanks to my teachers, I can use the bow a bit, and spend most of my time playing arco. I personally never could have learned about that on my own, even as a former 'cellist. Without the ability to play with a bow, I have no idea how I could have ever hoped to develop decent intonation.

Thirty years later, I am still working on things that these teachers told me. A good teacher can save you untold years of time and free you up to play music, rather than fight the bass.

Even now, as a dabbler, having had great teachers gives me a chance to enjoy playing, even at my now greatly reduced level of competence. Even as messed up/insane as I was as a teen and young adult, and as imperfect a vessel for the priceless gift my teachers gave me, I got and retained a lot. If I can keep my hands in shape, I can play without a fight, thanks to my teachers.

Finally, any kind of education opens the world to all of us. Meeting and studying with those who have faced their inner obstacles, traveled the world playing, practiced years of humility and professional dedication, and risen to the top of their profession is pretty mind-expanding. Why miss it?

Umm, all to say, +1 to Ken's post.
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Last edited by Eric Swanson; 04-30-2008 at 08:49 AM.
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  #6  
Old 04-30-2008, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Swanson View Post
I was lucky enough to get a great teacher (jazz virtuoso, former National Symphony player, composer, and conductor Terry Plumeri, who studied with the former NYPhil Principal, Robert Brennand).

I learned more in my first month with him than I had "taught" myself (badly) in 2-3 years of nonstop flailing and playing publicly, out of tune. Through Terry, I also got to meet and take a lesson with Mr. Brennand (whose ease, talent, and tone I will never forget). Later, I got to study with Lew Norton (former NYPhil, for decades, amazingly large sound, great, generous, funny, no-nonsense guy) and very briefly, with George Mraz (jazz virtuoso and overall amazing player, with or without the bow). All these players had overcome the physical challenges of the instrument.
About 3 years ago I called Lew Norton just to say 'thanks' as I know he's getting up there in years. I was in my early 20s when I studied with him and now I'm pushing 57. I left several messages and he didn't respond at first. Then I called Bill Blossom who was my teacher before Lew and before Bill had made the Orchestra. I was about 19-20 at the time. I told Bill I was trying to get in touch with Lew as it's been over 30-35 years since I have seen or talked to either of them. I also gave my thanks to Bill on the phone and mentioned how I was back playing again after a 15 year retirement. This time around though instead of doing the Commercial Scene (with a lil Jazz) like I did in NY for 20 years, I am now playing in Orchestras out here in PA. Holding Principal in 2 Orchestras and a hired gun for several others as a sub in the area. I just needed to thank them both for all the teaching I had gotten. Also, I was finally doing what I was trained for as well as teaching myself back up to speed.

Well, Bill let Lew know I was trying to reach him (this is just before he retired) and the next time I called Lew he picked up the phone.."KENNY!!!...".. and it was old home week.

I asked Bill at first if he even remembered me and he said, "YES, we talk about you here in the section all the time". "Huh? With the section? The guys there know me?".. I asked... "Yes, they know you. You were my most successful student" Bill said.

Later that year John Schaeffer (retired Principal and Bill's former teacher) called Jeff Bollbach for my address to send me an invitation. Bill was turning 60 and was playing a recital at his own birthday bash. At that event was the entire Bass section plus Shaeffer, Biase, Schnitzer, Bollbach, Alvin Bream, Peter Lloyd and a few other top Bassists and families.

That was a night to remember. I asked Bill about his son that was an infant when I studied with him. He then introduces me to his 35 year old son. Time flies. Take those lessons now. They are priceless in the long run.
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Old 04-30-2008, 08:44 PM
Mike Milner Mike Milner is offline
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Default Doug Watkins

In John Goldsby's "Jazz Bass" book, he advises that Doug Watkins was killed in an automobile accident in 1962. He was 28. Concerning his bass, the liner notes from a Blue Note release of a side that Doug cut as a leader in 1956 for the Transition label contain a comment allegedly from Doug saying at the time of the session, he was "breaking in a new seven foot Italian bass".
Watkins & Chambers were both from Detroit, and I believe they were cousins. They were both professional jazz musicians at the centre of the hard bop scene at a very young age, Paul before he was 20 and Doug maybe 21.
There are numerous pictures of Paul playing with Miles, if you want to get a look at his bass. According to John Goldsby, Paul used Golden Spiral gut strings.
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:57 PM
Vince Mendoza Vince Mendoza is offline
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Thanks to everyone who replied. Much appreciated.

I'm still immensely enjoying playing the electric bass, although every now and then the thought of doubling on or completely switching over to upright crosses my mind. Who knows, one of these days, I just might. Because when I really think about it, outside maybe of one or two electric bassists, all my role models are upright jazz bassists.

If anything else, Ken's info on what Chambers and the other great bassists played was particularly instructive and, like I said earlier, enlightening for me.

V.
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Old 05-02-2008, 05:53 PM
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Default PC bass

Hi guys, just for your amusement ... here's a copy and paste of a funny story I 've been told and reported on TB on Jan 2006...enjoy

PC bass
I heard a story from a friend of mine here in Italy, great international piano player Dado Moroni : he told me that bass was stolen by PC and Doug Watkins from an unattended car...the bass belonged to a symphony player. The bass was somehow shared between PC and Doug Watkins (I guess they were cousins). One night the owner of the bass walked into a jazz club in NYC and saw his instrument in the hands of PC...After the show he introduced himself to PC and, with great surprise, he left the bass to him, saying he had never heard any better stuff coming out of his bass...
It's probably not true of course, but it' s funny to think it might be, for a minute...
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Old 09-22-2008, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
It is a fine Panormo era (or earlier) British Bass which 3 of them emanated out of Scotland in the 20th century. They were possibly made as a set for an Orchestra back then and sent there from somewhere in the UK or were made in Scotland which is not out of the question either. That's the Bass in his book with the high shoulders and the open key tuner handles.
Do you know the background of these three basses appearing from Scotland, Ken? Be interested to know if I am familiar with any of the folks involved. Ray Brown's "book" bass (according to local musicians who were around at the time) was bought from a local jazzer named Ian Brown (Brownie) when Ray was playing the Apollo theatre in Glasgow.
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Old 09-22-2008, 12:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kilbride View Post
Do you know the background of these three basses appearing from Scotland, Ken? Be interested to know if I am familiar with any of the folks involved. Ray Brown's "book" bass (according to local musicians who were around at the time) was bought from a local jazzer named Ian Brown (Brownie) when Ray was playing the Apollo theatre in Glasgow.
I was told that it was purchased from Hill in London as an Amati and bought for him by his wife then who was Ella Fitzgerald. Maybe he bought it in Scotland and Hill appraised it? I don't know as I wasn't there. Only, I can tell the stories that I have heard. On the 3 basses, not Ray's (that's the 4th), all of them had fake Italian labels in them. One was Testore that we know of and 2 were made up names that never existed. I have seen and played the one with the Testore label. Great bass but British to my eyes.
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