Friday, January 11, 2019

The Bass Chooses the Player

In 1993 I visited a little music store on the corner of Lyndale and 34th in Minneapolis. There was only one other person in the store. A cheerful woman who looked to be in her 30s (I was 23). It was a cool little store, full of good energy. I was looking for basses as I had just decided to make the full jump to become a fretless bass player. Well on the wall was this very cool looking fretless hollow body electric bass. I had tried quite a few basses, but I had seen nothing like this one. So the woman (Laurel) gave me a cable and encouraged me to try it. This beautiful instrument just sang. It was a joy to play and feel it vibrate my whole being. I thought to myself I need this instrument. Laurel then told me so much about music and her husband, that his artistry crafted these instruments direct from the tree. And me being a kind of spiritual pagan (yes I'm Atheist but - one of the great things I have learned to do this past year is to let go and allow myself to feel; rest with my emotions; to know them and integrate them with my whole being - that is spirituality and I no longer allow my skepticism to rob me of that experience when it happens.)

So I told Krista about this experience and we began setting funds aside for me to contract Roger Benedict to create for me my very own Semi-Hollow Fretless Bass... (more on this later)

TODAY (Friday, January 4) after a fabulous coffee date with a friend at Gingko. I thought, well its Friday, the weather is unnaturally warm and sunny, I'll stop down at Vig Guitars and say hey to Angela and Ted, and see if they have any cool gear in rotation. (I've actually been in the market for a good P-Bass for a very long while as my only Precision Bass is a Fretless!! ) - But ya know, finding something that "speaks to the player" is important. I never just buy things randomly or say, "yeah, I guess this will do..."

Custom Ted Vig P-Bass
with hand wound split coil pick-ups
No- Every bass, every guitar, I own has 'chosen me' (if I want to go all Olivander on ya here.) 

So I stop in at Vig's and lo and behold there is a Black P-Bass built by Ted just right there on the floor. And so I think, okay, so I'll give it a shot. I mean Ted is a Luthier and a fantastic musician (* side note he was a classmate of Krista's and I first met him ages ago in Northfield) ANYWAY...

This P-bass was well balanced, it sang through the amp and responded well to every nuance I threw into it. 
-- I knew the feeling well. 

For this is the feeling I get whenever I find that perfect instrument that works for me. But I wasn't going to buy it right then and there - I really needed to think about it.

So I decided, well I'm going to go to my usual haunts and drive around a bit.

My first stop, Willies American Guitars. The store was empty save for the employees. I headed over to the basses thinking - Oh, I still need a Rickenbacker 4001, and I look at the vintage P-basses, but none of them really spoke to me. Then just as I was about to leave, I saw this black early 90s Benedict Groove Master Fretless Electric Bass. I asked for a cable and plugged it in. And yes, it sang to me. I played just some long low tones to get inside the resonance, then my own slow plaintive improvisation of Jaco's "Continuum" and part of the Allemande to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1. - The bass felt and sounded beautifully 
- and I did indeed cry. 
Early 90s neck-thru Benedict Groove Master Fretless Bass
In fact I had to stop. I cradled the bass in my arms and sat with my emotions. Remembering Laurel talking with pride about her husband's work. Remembering my 23 year old Krista with that same enthusiasm for me to save up for my own bass.

- On November 15, 1994 Roger Benedict died suddenly at the age of 45 of adult onset leukemia. My thoughts back then were of Laurel and their three children-- and my own thoughts today drifted to suddenly losing Krista at the age of 47 in June 2017 to a drunk driver - now it is just me and our two children. My pride in all of her accomplishments in her career, in her artistry, the centrality of music in the Love we shared for 26 years; the looks of love and after show embraces she would provide at the end of my performances. And here I am, sitting there at Willies, now hugging this bass and remembering their joy and enthusiasm...

[-- The money that Krista and I were saving for my own Benedict Semi-Hollow Bass went to my G&L L2000 Fretless which I purchased at Willies in 1995. I could feel a lot of magic in that bass when I first played it, at it became my main ax for 7 years.]

After I regained composure I put the Benedict back on the wall. The memories were great but this wasn't the bass for me. I then went to Capitol Guitars and chatted with Billy for a bit (like Vig, I tend to buy cool things there) Did some more errands and kept thinking of my experiences. 
So, I drove back to Vig Guitars. Walked into the store, picked up the bass, and said, Yes I am buying this.

Too many good vibes I felt in this bass and too many "signs" (yeah, I know, I don't believe in "signs" but who cares, I've learned that when things feel right, just go with it. 
So I now have my P-Bass built by Ted Vig

Xenia with her Vig P-Bass
ADDENDUM: January 14, 2019 - No one is going to appreciate that Benedict Groove Master Fretless more than me... 
.... It is now my primary Fretless. I want to thank Eli, Cecilia, and Nate for their patience while I communed with during my recent store visits.

G&L L2000 Fretless with Leo Fender Signature
purchased from Willies in 1995
This was my main ax from 1995-2002
Xenia's Oxymoronic Fretless Precision Bass
[Ash Body; Maple Neck; Ebony Fingerboard;
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder Split Coil Pick-Up
Gold Anodized Pickguard from a Squier Bass that belonged to Joey Molland of Badfinder
Schaller Tuning Machines and Ken Smith Stainless Steel Heavy Metal Masters Round Wounds .050 - .110]

My Oxymoronic Fretless Precision Bass

No comments:

Post a Comment