Archive for the ‘ISB Convention 2011’ Category

Reading Session One!

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I’m happy to announce that I’ve arranged for several friends to get together and read through some of the music that I bought at the International Society of Bassists Convention in June of 2011.

It’s one thing to buy a bunch of music, it’s another to find out if any of it is any good. Especially in a small space like this, it’s hard to be sure. The fact that something is published is no guarantee, since it is so easy to self-publish these days.

This read-through will also help me line up some of the music that we’ll play in the coming season. I haven’t released details, but we will be playing in Arlington Heights in January, and I also hope that we’ll be on the program at next year’s Chicago Bass Festival.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting together with John Tuck, Beth Zaluba and Anton Hatwich on Monday (yep, tomorrow, as I’m posting this) to try some stuff out. This afternoon’s project: pick what music to read.


Bass Geek. It’s True.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Possibly, one should not characterize oneself as a geek, leaving it as an honorary to be assigned by others. But I am taking the liberty to talk about myself this way. I am at least a minor double bass* geek. How can I tell? It’s been a month since Gary Karr’s appearance at the International Society of Bassists Convention, and I’m still wearing the wrist band that was used for admission:

Gary Karr Concert Wristband

A month later, still wearing the wristband from Gary Karr's appearance at the International Society of Bassists Convention

Yep, I’m still living the glory days of the convention in my mind. For me, corny though I think the tagline “Summer of Bass Love” is, there was a lot of love in the air in San Francisco this past June. There were great concerts (Thierry Barbé‘s recital springs to mind, as do the performances by Nicholas Schwartz and Shawn Conley), masterclasses I am still digesting (Hunter Capoccioni, Paul Erhard), product demos (the K-bow), the luthier’s competition and conversations galore (I held Chuck Israel’s attention for a while, had breakfast with Thierry Barbé and Volkan Orhon and was almost recognized by my old teacher Steve Tramontozzi).

I’ve never seen so many people walking around with bow cases over their shoulders or in their hands. I haven’t heard official figures since the end of the convention (hint, hint ISB office), but when I asked around during the convention, estimates by the staff ranged from 800 (pre-registrations) to 1,200 (including walk-up and/or one-day registrations). And there were so many events to attend! There were several instances where I had to make tough choices about what to see. I did my best to blog about the International Society of Bassists convention, but by the end of the week I couldn’t keep up.

I also bought a lot of music for Chicago Bass Ensemble. I am arranging for reading sessions to get through it with my colleagues here in Chicago, testing out what’s concert quality and what will be useful for in-school or other more casual settings.

A friend recently asked me why I founded a chamber ensemble of only bassists. Naturally I fumbled around trying to answer (we were recording the interview for his podcast, tentatively named The Heavily Redacted Podcast), and in the end I concluded that it’s just because I love this instrument so much. So much that I even made myself a washtub bass:

The UkeZooTub Orchestra performs at the Chicago Waldorf School's May Fair



* string bass, contrabass, bass, bass fiddle, doghouse bass, upright bass, bass violin, scratchbox, contrebasse, kontrabasse, king of the orchestra

ISB Convention, June 11, 2011

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The last day! Overall I must say for me it’s been a glorious week. So much fine music, so many friendly colleagues. It’s better even than being in the conservatory, there were so many concerts to attend.

I accomplished my three main goals:

  • added to the bass ensemble’s library by buying music,
  • tried some travel basses and
  • networked like mad.

As I write, it’s 12:40 and I have an early alarm for my flight back to Chicago (via Missoula, Montana!), so here again is a quick wrapup of what I saw today. After breakfast with my dad (Happy early Father’s Day):

  • Deep Tones for Peace an all-star cast with an all-star goal
  • Paul Erhard a lightning-fast introduction to his study of Indian classical music. Definitely worth further study.
  • Michael Cameron’s Recital including the live accompaniment to the 1927 silent film “Fiddlesticks.”
  • Nicholas Walker and Michael Manring many of us were impressed by Nicholas’ facility in all the genres he attempted. And Manring was one of my early inspirations and the successor to Jaco Pastorius and Percy Jones. I think this was a great post-Gary-Karr-Gala evening.

Through the whole week there was only one event I walked out on. All I’ll say is this: if you’re going to play well-known material in front of a group of professionals, you’d better bring your “A” game. Everyone else did.

I’m already looking forward to 2013!


ISB Convention, June 10, 2011

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Wow, today was just such a full day, I had no time to tweet, it is so late now that I will do no more than one sentence on each session I attended today.

Chamber Music Panel Discussion Handout will be useful. Who was that Aussie in the audience who decided that HE was the subject of the event?

The K-Bow From the developer of Zeta instruments, a sophisticated sensor/controller built in to a bow. Very, very cool.

Bad Boyz of Bass Diana Gannet as guest good girl. Someday, Chicago Bass Ensemble has to have a rumble with these guys.

Double Bass in China Part of a day that felt as if I crossed borders at every turn, a short talk in Chinese and musical examples from different regions for bass and piano.

Stephen Tramontozzi almost recognized me, but couldn’t bring my name to mind. In fairness, it’s been about 14 years. Surprise appearance by basso Andrea Silvestrelli.

Viennese Classical Bass Wouldn’t have considered this, but met Bret in the hallway, and I understood the subject, I decided to go.

Thierry Barbé Great playing, cool tailpiece. Creative music stand, and let me say that I really appreciate the players who make efforts to keep the music stand out of the sightlines on stage.

Gary Karr and Friends OMG, 11 bassists with nearly the same posture and hand position–and Gary’s tone penetrates past all of them. Several encores–some comic–by an energetic Gary Karr. Great look on Harmon Lewis’ face when HE is surprised with the newly-created ISB Musical Collaborator award.

Good night!

ISB Convention June 9, 2011

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Today was the day when choices had to be made. For instance, I chose the Robin Worn ensemble over the audio workshop. For me, that probably was a good choice–but if there were any good resources discussed at the audio workshop, please let me know. I was glad I got to hear mvt 1 of the Schuller quartet, although to be honest the rest of the program I didn’t find so appealing.

There were several other times today when I had to miss something in favor of something else that was just enough more interesting… a wealth of opportunity here.

Volkan Orhon’s recital was very well done. I have his album Multiplicity and enjoy it very much; it was a treat to hear him perform live. He’s also someone I’ve enjoyed talking with. As a treat for him, he was performing the work of a Turkish composer for the first time. Oh, and happy birthday, Volkan!

Other events I attended today:

  • Barry Greene’s Green Man Group
  • Catalin Rotaru
  • Brian Bromberg
  • Argentinian Rhythms
  • Bert Turetzky
  • Composition Contest Winners

I seem to be the only one tweeting. At least, the only one using #ISBconv2011 as a hashtag. It sure is lonely being social, or am I missing something about the online behavior of bass players? I mean, there ARE teenagers here!

Oh well, I’m still doing plenty of connecting in person, with both old friends and new!

Well, that’s all for tonight. Tomorrow is a big night: Gary Karr will be here. Can’t wait!

Travel/High-Tech Basses

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Yesterday I took the time to try out a few basses. I had just spent two hours listening to the Maker’s Competition instruments, so I felt like I was primed for some playing.

I don’t feel qualified as a super sophisticated reviewer, so this will be brief. You should of course form your own opinion.

Lemur has begun offering three of it’s basses as folding or travel basses: the Venice, Tosca and Liberty Bell. Both the Venice and Tosca are fully carved; the Liberty Bell has laminate back and sides. I played on Venice and Liberty Bell models that had been prepared to fit “in the box.” These were all definitely playable basses, and from what I could hear (in the convention hall hallway, mind you) they sounded pretty good. I’m definitely not presently a judge of workmanship, but I can say that there is no audience-visible indication that there’s anything different about these basses. On the Liberty Bell that I played, I do seem to recall, there was a cut in the heel and a small gap visible to the player.

Lemur’s video on converting these basses to/from travel gas gone viral among the bass community, so you can see the procedure for yourself.

Prices can be found at Lemur’s website Lemur Fly-Away Basses

COSI stands for COmposite String Instruments. These are fully composite instruments, available in a base model and a “Chase” model, distinguished from the base model by the way the carbon fiber is laid into the mold. I know from my days reselling LeGouic carbon fiber bows that this leads to subtle but important changes in sound. The basses are available in all black or with a wood veneer on the top, and either can be made with the travel option.
The setup on these demonstrators was not truly to my liking–but all setup work is done through traditional techniques, so you will be able to get these basses adjusted to your liking. These were definitely playable and nicely resonant instruments. They did have a bit of the pinched sound of a new instrument. To my surprise, the maker tells me that the sound does break in over time. COSI also makes cellos, and probably violins and violas, so we may be able to confirm that with our upper-string colleagues.

Converting the bass for/from travel took only a few minutes, and looked simple, although it did involve a little judicious tapping of the bridge to position it properly.

Given the models and options I’ve listed prices run from about $6,000 to just under $11,000. There are also fractional size instruments, at lesser prices. COmposite String Instruments

If yor needs include ease of travel, I think all these basses are worth considering. And especially if you suffer weather at your gigs, the COSI basses may be worth a try.

ISB Convention, June 8, 2011

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Image of the Day

You need to get your bass home in your BMW Z4. Good thing you bought the ragtop.

(h/t to Eric Johnson who had his camera at hand)


What an event! Even though my impulse is to order my post chronologically, and this event happened at the end of the day, I have to say that tonight’s concert was a peak experience. Both Daxun Zhang and Martin Wind are outstanding players, and to hear them back-to-back was immensely satisfying. Standing ovations and encores for both.
Also of tremendously high quality was Dennis Trembly’s afternoon recital.
I spent the morning listening to the instruments entered in the Maker’s Competition. This was really enlightening. Chuck Israels, Kurt Muroki and David Murray each played very briefly on each of the 25 instruments. What an opportunity to hear the subtle and not subtle variations across these fine instruments. The surprise takeaway for me was the variation in sound between the French and German bows! It sounds stupid to say it: of course there are differences, but they were so striking, and not what I had intuitively expected. Of course the variation is also due to different players. But the bottom line for me is that when shopping for an instrument or a bow, it isn’t going to help even to bring a friend along: you will not sound the way your friend does even playing on the same instrument.
Finally for me the feel-good story of the day: Australian luthier Benedict Puglisi’s instrument had been held up in customs SNAFUs, and missed the official deadline for entry in the Maker’s Competition. (reported here: )But when it did finally arrive, the judges were all agreeable to examine it. Props to them for interpreting the spirit of the rules and not their letter, and for making time in their own schedules to evaluate one more instrument. The best part: Benedict’s instrument received a silver medal for tone. I spent some time with him at “ISB After Hours” and in addition to being a very nice guy, ge us very relieved and happy tonight. Look him up the next time you’re in Melbourne.
Even though I seem to be the only one doing so, I’m still tweeting #ISBconv2011 throughout the day. There was a brief scare earlier when my brother retweeted me with a scorching comment, but he has since returned to WeinerGate and is leaving us bass players alone.

Breakfast with Thierry and Volkan

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Showing off WordPress for iPhone to Thierry Barbé and Volkan Orhon!

I could have taken a picture…but I didn’t.

ISB Convention, Tuesday June 7

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Things are definitely underway on “day two.” I had only a few conflicts–but don’t worry, tomorrow almost every hour offers more things than I can possibly see. I will have to make some tough choices.
Today, after checking out the massed rehearsal for the young bassists program…

…and looking at and playing some of the basses in the maker’s competition, I had lunch downtown with old pals Steven Auerbach, Mickey McPhillips and Jeff Raby.
After lunch, presentations by Hans Sturm and John Schimek, and performances by Pat Klobas and Barre Philips. The evening performance featured Fausto Borem and a really really great set from John Clayton with his son Gerald. Truly great stuff.
For me, the most important takeaway of today was from Hans Sturm’s presentation on François Rabbath’s left hand technique: “try everything [technique]. Decide later.” You have permission to experiment. Do not get stuck on a particular technique.
I also spent some time talking with Chuck Israels, and I’m looking forward to hearing him demonstrate the maker’s competition basses tomorrow morning.
By the way, in the maker’s competition, one maker did receive a hold medal, and it being his third, he is now a master bass-maker according to the International Society of Bassists. Awesome.

ISB Convention, Monday June 6

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Just heard a fantastic opening program from winners of the Solo and Jazz competitions in 2009. I’m very excited…so excited that I might have to go back to Chicago right away and practice.
Okay, I’m kidding about that. I’m staying to get more inspiration in the days to come.
I’m also really pleased to have run into old friends Randy Keith, Pat McCarthy and Steve Reinfranck. I shook Volkan Orhan’s hand after thinking he was George Amorim. And spent time with new friends Robin (from Denver), Tina (Portland), Dennis and … unh … (dang, I was doing pretty well at remembering names until that last one!) Anyway, they’re both from Rhode Island.
Speaking of “from”: we’ve got attendees from China, Korea, South Africa and Australia, as well as the “usual suspects” of the U.S., Europe and Eastern Europe. I asked at the registration desk, and the person there thought there might be 1,500 registrants. Impressive! and I’ll try to confirm that number tomorrow.
Nicholas Schwartz said something to the effect that if you’re a bass player, wherever you go you have friends. I’ve only been here a few hours, but I’m already basking in that glow.
I’ve done a few tweets (#ISBconv2011), but I’m finding it’s more fun to be social with the people who are physically here than with the ones that I only imagine are following my tweets 🙂 Nonetheless, with short sessions throughout the day tomorrow, I will have more opportunity.