Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Sunday, September 25th, 2016

For what seems like a year, but is really only about 10 months, CBE has done next to nothing: no rehearsals, no performances, no get-togethers. And even before that, there was little activity that I could brag about. I had a line on a precious few performance opportunities, but life being what it has been, I wasn’t able to execute and bring them to life.

I wanted CBE to be a performing group, not a rehearsing one. And while Doug, Michael, John and I did spend a lot of time to our benefit ‘just rehearsing’ back in earlier days, it became clear that they also wanted to perform more than we did–more than I organized and led towards. So the lack of regular performances probably led to the mostly-disbanding of that lineup.

But one of my other (admittedly undeclared) goals was to play with others who were my equal or better, and in doing so, learn from and be inspired by them. So, to that end, I’m going to take CBE in the direction of being a regular ‘workshop’ for the time being.

Those of you who went to music school will recognize the concept of studio class: all the students of one teacher (or several teachers of the same instrument) gather regularly to play for each other, demonstrate and learn technique and repertoire and work on chamber works together. For the immediate future, Chicago Bass Ensemble Workshops will have two areas of focus: individual development and repertoire exploration. The former will be about learning from each other and improving skills. The latter will be about playing chamber music for basses and soliciting compositions or composition sketches (works-in-progress, ideas) from composers writing for the bass.

I’m glad that I’ve finally announced this idea–it’s been much too long that I’ve let this idea foment in my mind without taking action.

If you’re a bassist, especially one living in the Chicago area, please get in touch with me to be invited to participate. (This will be open to all.)

And if you’re a composer or someone interested in trying out musical ideas with a group of basses, please get in touch. I welcome the opportunity to try out your ideas and give you feedback.

And everyone, I welcome your comments here or via the contact form on the website.

Audition Daily Blog, the sequel – part 04

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Super quick note tonight, almost short enough to be a tweet.

Sound and feel are great tonight. I know not everything is audition-ready yet, but these more familiar excerpts are coming along quickly. More than ever, I believe that I will buy the “Beyond Practicing” training mentioned yesterday[1]. It’s nerves that are my real problem in an audition.



[1] gratuitous self-linking

Reading Session 2016-01-15

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

It was a cold night, but we had a rewarding reading session on Friday, January 15.


  • Marc Temkin
  • Bjorn Villesvik
  • Phillip Serna
  • Jacque Harper

This was great for me. Phillip and I have crossed paths a number of times over the years. At separate times, we were both students of Stephen Tramontozzi at the San Francisco Conservatory. But to my recollection, we had not played together. So it was good to do that. Marc is someone I met briefly many years ago at one of our early performances, but hadn’t seen since. He encouraged Bjorn to join us, and I’m glad he did. I’m always happy to expand my circle of colleagues.


  • Tomas Luis de Victoria, arr. Cameron – Three Spanish Motets
  • Tony Osborne – Sonnet for a Summer’s Day
  • Ernst Mahle – Quartet
  • Marc Temkin – work in progress
  • Serge Prokofiev, arr Serna – March from The Love of Three Oranges
  • Joseph Lauber – Quartet
  • Hindemith, arr Harper – Six Chansons
  • Wasserman – Pieces for Basses

The ensemble has read or performed all of these–except for Marc’s sketch, Tony Osborne’s ‘sonnet’ and the Wasserman piece–in the past, so I don’t have a lot of new comments on them. As always, it was energizing to be able to make music together.

I look forward to the opportunity to perform Sonnet for a Summer’s Day, in the hopes that I can encourage my wife to sing the soprano part. Rob Wasserman’s piece I’ve attempted to get through several times, but it seems to require more preparation than a pick-up reading session. I’m also not fond of the gimmick of the first movement being for a solo player, the second a duet, the third a trio etc. If I’ve gone to the trouble of finding five players, I want to make use of them. Marc’s work, completely and somewhat abashedly incomplete, shows promise. Always happy to read through something to give a composer a chance to hear ideas.

My only regret for the evening was that I failed to print out the parts for David Heyes’ work The Last Poppy. I really meant to. My apologies, David! Next time for sure.

The Art of Quartet Playing

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

I am just about to start reading The Art of Quartet Playing—The Guarneri Quarter in Conversation with Favid Blum. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1986)

Now, nobody will accuse me of being a stoic. But the catch in my breath as I turned to the first chapter still took me by surprise.

Bassists and Their Cars

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Bassists often and rightfully bemoan the requirement, imposed upon them by their instrument of choice, that they own a big car. And that they can’t share rides with anyone.

This post is here to show ya that you don’t necessarily have to drive a giant SUV if you’re a bassist. (And to prove a point made in an earlier post about a bassist searching for a car to buy.)

Here, you see Julian Romane and I on our way to Whitewater, Wisconsin, in his Honda Fit with both basses in back. You can see the headstock of my bass (in its case) between us.


And the other night Neal Rodack needed a ride to our rehearsal, so his bass (on the right) and mine rode in the back of my Mazda2.


It can be done! But we’re still glad to get the cartage pay on those union contracts — not complainin’ about that.

A Memory of Yusef Lateef

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Upon learning of the death of Yusef Lateef, I tweeted that he had taught me a great lesson in humanity. I have much more to say about that lesson than 140 characters will allow, so here is my recollection.

I was living near Amherst, Massachusetts when I met Yusef Lateef. I don’t remember how I came to meet him — I was doing some freelance bass playing, but mostly classical and also with a country swing band. I don’t think it was either of those that put me in contact with him. It might have been that he was teaching at Hampshire College and my then-wife arranged an introduction. Or my teacher at the time, Sal Macchia, or my friend and fellow bassist Bruce Quaglia—who was also a composer—may have introduced us.

He and I did not play together. But for some reason we did have contact with each other. At the time, I had for some reason an interest in Islam. It may have been because this was near the time of the mid-air bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Or maybe it was about the time of the kerfuffle regarding the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. I think that Yusef Lateef must have loaned me some books on Islam. I remember thinking how enlightened a practice it was.

But the great lesson that Yusef Lateef taught me is not specific to Islam. One day I happened to meet him at a gas station; we were both filling our tanks. I must have told him that I was going to be moving away from the area soon. And the timing must have been such that I knew I would not see him again. He very solemnly told me, that as I drove away (from the gas station), he would not turn his back to me.

I remember a serious and sincere look on his face as I got in my car and pulled away. And I remember that as I drove out, onto the street and away, that he turned to watch me as I went. This was a long and straight stretch of road, and I believe that he followed me with his gaze for quite some time as I drove away. In fact I do believe that he watched me for as long as I was visible to him.

To this day, when someone for whom I care is parting from me, I will stand and watch their car pull away from me, I will visualize their path, turn to where I know their car is as they leave from me. It’s not about cars, of course, though this memory involves one. It’s about caring for those who are meaningful to you, about seeing friends safely upon their journey. I consider it a great lesson, and a great habit to have learned.

Yusef Lateef, know that I am watching you as you part from all of us.

Review, October 13

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

One of the first reviews written about us, from our October 13 performance

Thomas and I went to the Chicago Bass Ensemble performance the Sunday before the wedding.  It was truly wonderful, four basses playing together and the music reaching deep inside.  The musicians looked dapper, each with a shirt of different colors.  Jacque performed a remarkable and what seemed to be a difficult solo with virtuosity that I would not mind hearing again.  It was both an artistically nurturing afternoon and an occasion to have a pick to a side of Jacque that, because of the distance, might not be very well known and or experienced.  I recommend that you arrange your next trip to coincide with a performance.  Go, Chicago Bass Ensemble, Go!!!

Okay, full disclosure … that review is written by my mother-in-law, who I adore. But I couldn’t resist sharing it.


We’ve begun working on Harrison’s Clocks, a recent work by Tony Osborne, for our January 11 appearance at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater bass festival.

I’ve also committed to co-commissioning a piece for marimba/percussion with six basses, which will be premiered on March 31 in downtown Chicago and will feature Matthew Coley. I’ll write more about this later.

“Pre-Gaming” for a Concert

Friday, July 12th, 2013

I overheard a conversation discussing “pre-gaming” before a concert – activities before going to see Bob Dylan perform live at a venue capable of holding up to 28,000 attendees. The concert-goer in question said he was nervous about his “pre-gaming” activities, because at the same time he was to be meeting his girlfriend’s parents. I took this to mean that he was intending to get drunk–or more–as preparation for the concert, and he realized that he might make a bad impression on the potential in-laws.

Now I’m going to be opinionated and cynical.

Leaving aside the blatant lack of willfulness expressed (you don’t have the self-control to put off your boozing during the time you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents?), what is it about going to a concert that requires getting loaded in advance? What is it about a concert that requires mind- or mood-altering substances at all? For people who do this is music, even the music of a 20th-century legend, only a backdrop to schmoozing, socializing and ‘partying?’

Shouldn’t a concert, the music itself be mind- or mood-altering?

Is getting drunk before the concert a way of hedging your bets, planting the seeds of an excuse?

  • If you don’t enjoy the concert, but it’s well-reviewed by others, you can say “oh wow, well, I was totally wasted” and be absolved of the guilt of not knowing good from bad?
  • Or if the concert is panned by your friends but you had a good time, the same excuse “dude, I was partying so hard, it was awesome” (with “it” left a indeterminate referent: was “it” the music or was “it” the bacchanalian* excess…) gives you permission to have a different opinion?
  • Is it the possibility that a Bob Dylan concert might turn out to be a colossal waste of $60 or more, and the best way to have a good time is to chemically lower your barriers to being entertained? Could the same question be asked about Wilco and the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, the undercard on the concert?

I certainly hope that my audiences don’t feel that their experience of my concert isn’t complete unless they’ve partied beforehand. I suppose if I knew the audience was going to be drunk or high, it would be easier: all that practicing would be unneeded. The mere appearance of four bassists alone on a stage, able to stand next to each other and not fall over would bring howls of appreciation.

(Is Bob Dylan in 2013 a colossal waste of time? I note with irony that the page promoting the concert here in Chicago features a 50-year old picture of the artist. Is a concert like this, in reality, a nostalgic trip akin to hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play Strauss waltzes? Can I offend both pop music fans and classical purists by suggesting that both concerts would be a complete waste of time and money? They certainly would be for me.)

So, how about you: do you “pre-game” before a concert? Is it an essential part of the experience? How does it add to your enjoyment of the music?

* by using the term “bacchanalian,” of course, I attempt to raise my blogging to the erudite level of Jeremy Denk.

The Master’s Old Clothes

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Oof, it’s been way too long since I put on my white tie and tails.

“Really?” you ask “isn’t wearing fancy dress like that just a throwback to the old days when the servants wore the old-fashioned clothes that the masters had discarded when they moved on to more modern styles?”

Well, yeah, maybe that is the case. But I have to admit that I get a kick out of dressing up once in a while.

Today (and tomorrow) it happens to be for concerts of the Chicago Sinfonietta, taking place at the Harris Theater downtown Chicago and at Wentz Hall in Naperville.

  • Mozart, Overture to Il Seraglio
  • Shaheem, Oud Concerto in C minor
  • Dawson, Negro Folk Symphony

And yes, the tailcoat, pants, shirt, bow tie . . . they still fit. I’ll check on the shoes later.

IKEA Studio Transformation

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

I have to admit to some jealousy and some inspiration from this post about IKEA’s transformation of DJ Harry Love’s working space.

My working space isn’t quite as cluttered as that, but it is cluttered enough to be a psychic energy sink, a place where creative ideas gasp and sputter for air.

I’m fortunate to have Linda Parks nearby here in Chicago, and I plan a session with her the week after our concert at 2nd Presbyterian so I can get cleared up! Linda focuses on using what you have, not on spending a fortune on new furniture, but after seeing that video, I wonder if spending some money isn’t the right thing to do.

Do you have a transformative story to tell about your working space? Let me know in the comments.