Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bass Notes

jerome, kosi, zack

Zack is leaving mid may. That will be bass player number 7.

Jeff was the first. A stout guy with Clark Kent glasses and a penchant for Hawaiian shirts  it was actually Jeff’s idea to start the band. I was playing guitar and singing at a party in my house. Jeff liked what he heard and offered to be the bass player, that is, if I ever wanted to start a band. I had been thinking about doing that for some time but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. So I decided to just let it manifest. It did.

The second Bass player was David. David is a slender, handsome, black man in his mid forties, who prefers wife-beaters, dark sunglasses and khaki army surplus pants. I met him walking down 123rd st. He had a guitar bag slung on his back. I asked him what he played. I told him I lived down the street and if he wanted to jam sometime to let me know. He plays the bass like a clock, you can literally set your watch by it. A few months later I looked him up and called him to sub for Jeff a few times. Jeff was now on a decaying orbit. David learned quick. That was also when we came up with Kosi's signature hand signal routine. A trick that has helped us get through this period of personnel turmoil. If the bass player gets lost, Kosi holds up the number of fingers that indicate what chord we are on. The beauty of this system is it works in any key.

After David left for Texas I got Alison as a sub. Alison is a breezy kind of a Janis Joplin type. She learned two sets worth of original material, made charts and then never showed up for the gig. An hour late, she texted me with her lame excuse. J. Y. the gifted guitar player who had recommended her jumped in to save the day. Kosi was able to guide him through. Somehow we managed to perform.

Then there was Otto who subbed for a Wednesday night gig at Shrine. Otto, tall with long dark hair plays in a metal band. My eccentric song list was a stretch for him. He was not as schooled as the others and it took several rehearsals to get him up to speed. He did a fine job though and contributed some new musical ideas. I offered him the chair when Jeff finally left for good, but he declined. One day, weeks later, while I was loading gear into the car he stopped by on his bicycle. He told me he had realized that he was not ready to make the kind of commitment we needed to be successful. Fair enough.

Then there was Joanna. Joanna is a nerdy girl. She is painfully shy and never looks you in the eye.  She played melodic bass lines that made me feel like we had Paul McCartney in the band. When I told her that she beamed. It turns out McCartney is her favorite bassist. But Joanna is just another gun for hire and plays in several bands simultaneously. She was constantly having to cancel rehearsals for gigs. With attempting to write a rock opera I needed somebody who could rehearse.  I finally convinced her to let go of the chair.

That was when Zack came on board. When I first met Zack he told me he was 19. A few months later he told me he was 18. Zack has an angel face with curly brown and a perpetually deadpan expression. He subbed a few times with us before joining the band. 

I was in Dubrovnik, sitting at the restaurant in the Excelsior Hotel, when that went down. The Excelsior has free internet which for the price of a cappucino I was availing myself to. Beyond the terrace the ocean crashed against the medieval walls of the fortress city. Behind me the lobby wall was adorned with a picture gallery of the celebrity guests who had stayed there. That coterie included the likes of; Queen Elizabeth, Yul Brynner, Jean Paul Sartre, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Carlo Ponti and Orson Welles. Joanna quit and the whole thing was arranged from thousands of miles away via email messages on my smart phone. Zack was in.

Zack plays with a mad intensity. At various times we have called him “Killer” and he has also earned the appellation “White Nigga”. Zack's only problem is he has too many ideas. He is climbing up and down the fretboard like a sailor on a ship's mast during a squall. It’s hard to pin him down to a groove. He was making some sweet contributions to the space opera though. And I loved how he fought for 6/8 time when Kosi was saying it was no different from 3/4. But now Zack is leaving. He is heading back to Seattle and home for the summer.
Right on cue David returned from Texas. He called me a few months ago to tell me he was heading back. He said he hated it down there. There were no gigs to be had in the tiny berg where he had landed. He told me that a house was a liability. The first time I ever heard that. Right now he has nowhere to go and he and his wife are living in their car. I told him we could use him again in the band again and we set up a rehearsal for next week. I hope he makes it.

Recently while traveling I saw a documentary about Nirvana. They had a secession of drummers. It took awhile before they got someone who could really play. That was when the band took off. The rhythm section. That’s the key. Rock lore is rife with tales of the right drummer or bass player at long last making their appearance. A Ringo or Keith Moon manifests and shortly after that, anything is possible.


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