This list is ever evolving, as YouTube sometimes removes tracks and playlists. I’ll add some of my other favorites from time to time; it’s nowhere near “complete,” but enjoy, and feel free to contact me if you wanna share stories or if you find new enjoyable discoveries here.
Gary Karr is one of the greatest virtuoso bassists living today. He taught at Hartt School of Music near Hartford for years. I met him at Alice Tully Hall when I was a kid. He lives near Vancouver, Canada now. His website: http://www.garykarr.com/ (though it uses flash, so may not be functional much longer since browsers are removing support for that) He’s created an instructional video that you can find excerpts from on YouTube too.
Ludwig Streicher was another phenomenal classical bassist who developed a unique left hand technique; the upper arm pulls the string into the fingerboard, much like you’d do with a bow and arrow. This lessens the strain on the muscles of the fingers and wrist, and makes it easier to maintain a clearer tone. Jazz bassist Michael Moore introduced me to his technique. He wrote a 6 volume series, “My Way of Playing the Double Bass” published by Doblinger. It’s a bit hard to find, but worth the effort.
Upright bassist Michael Moore (not to be confused with the LAPD racist police chief or the documentary film maker, or GLEN Moore, from the group Oregon) taught at the Eastman School of Music’s summer jazz program, along with guitarist Gene Bertoncini, whom he frequently collaborated with. Gene said he liked to teach there because there was a beautiful tree outside the room they gave him, and he could meditate on it every morning; I’d also heard that Pat Martino liked to do the same thing.
Michael used the Streicher technique, and created a method book called, “Melodic Playing in the Thumb Position,” published by Advance Music. I like that book a lot; so many of the method books I’d seen were devoted to etudes in the lower positions. Bassist Sal Macchia, who’d been a teacher of mine at UMASS (while I was a Hampshire College student) had suggested I might want to study with Michael.
From childhood, I’d been indoctrinated with the Simandl bass method books, and taught what I’ve thought of as the Simandl technique, but Michael’s introduction to Streicher’s left hand technique changed my playing a lot. Nonetheless, the older technique had become so engrained that it’s still takes effort to maintain Streicher’s approach. Years later, I asked about further studies with Michael when I saw him play in NYC, but couldn’t afford him at that point; he said he set his rate based on how many years he’d been playing, which I still thought was a great approach. He was splitting his time between a home near the Delaware Water Gap and an apartment on the upper west side, if I remember correctly.
Red Mitchell was a wonderfully melodic bassist who lived in Sweden for a good deal of his life, I believe. He used to perform regularly at a small club on University Place near NYU in NY City. I met him there once, and he told me that he tuned his bass in fifths. Over the years, he said he’d changed his focus as a performer to having a musical dialog with the audience, less than showing off his chops. He was a really warm friendly guy, and his playing reflects that. His Jim Hall and Red Mitchell LP was a favorite among many of my friends. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Mitchell
Scott LeFaro was a great upright player best known for his work with pianist Bill Evans.
Bassist Avery Sharpe tears it up on this McCoy Tyner clip. He lived in Belchertown, MA, near Hampshire College when I was a student there. Hampshire teacher Ray Copeland, who’d played trumpet with Trane and Thelonius Monk, introduced me to him back then.
Upright bassist Lisle Atkinson had played with Betty Carter and Dizzy Gillespie. I think Rufus Reid or maybe Ron Carter had suggested taking lessons with him. I think we worked on stuff from the Simandl book – I was a year out of high school then. So I would take my upright on the subway from Park Slope in Brooklyn to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, take a bus to Teaneck, NJ, and have lessons at his house there. His wife was also a bassist.
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (aka NHOP) was an upright player most notorious for his work with Oscar Peterson. I saw Oscar a couple of times, once at Carnegie Hall, but NHOP wasn’t in the group anymore. They both had unreal chops, and I still wonder how Niels could play so damn fast with such articulation.
I’ve always loved his work with Kenny Drew:
Ron Carter is one of the most famous and accomplished jazz bassists around. This masterclass video tells a lot about his life and training. I hadn’t realized he’d gone to Eastman School of Music, and gone into jazz because symphony orchestras wouldn’t hire black players. In a workshop at Drummers Collective in NYC, I remember him pointing out that the tension of bass strings causes you to have to re-adjust all three other strings as you tune each one – a small detail, but it stuck with me.
Bertram Turetsky has been a major champion of new works for double bass. He taught at UC San Diego for years, and recently retired.
He’d taught one of my teachers, Sal Macchia, and authored a book called “The Contemporary Contrabass,” which details lots of non-standard techniques such as bowing the tailpiece.
Bertram visited CalArts while I was a student there. I was working mostly in interactive media and computer music, and wasn’t playing bass much. Early in the morning, I was in the middle of a Tai Chi class in the main hall, learning a stationary moving meditation that had sent me into a deep meditation in only a couple minutes. The music school secretary walked in and interrupted the Tai Chi class to pull me aside, which didn’t make me too happy because it was the first magical moment I’d had during the all-too-early-in-the-morning Tai Chi class. I’d signed Bert’s book out of the library, and they wondered if I could go home and bring it to his workshop. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to do that.
I’d been frustrated if not embarrassed that I’d lost a lot of my left hand strength and chops, so he recommended practicing trills up and down the neck. He told me Sal had been one of his best students, and I mentioned a bass concerto of sorts that Lew Spratlan had written for Sal, called, (I believe) “When Crows Gather.” We had a great chat, and I later mailed him a recording of Sal playing Spratlan’s piece. He wrote a nice thank you, and told me of an upcoming LA performance at LA County Museum of Art, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to the show. It was a real treat to get to chat with him, and somehow we really hit it off, which seemed to elicit some envy from the bass performance majors. Ah well.
Richard Davis is another spectacular bassist who’s paid his dues playing with an incredible list of the best classical and jazz ensembles. He was teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and I took a few lessons with him there during the months I lived there. He’d performed a few free improv concerts around the campus with some players from the Art Ensemble of Chicago – I think Lester Bowie and Joseph Jarman might’ve been in some of the shows. So I was surprised when I walked into a lesson and he handed me a Bach Violin piece – he jumped right into doing some serious work all over the neck, which was a wonderful challenge, but I didn’t end up staying in Madison too long, so didn’t really get to take full advantage of that spectacular opportunity. I sure heard a lot of fantastic music while I was there, though.
I first heard Ron McClure in my beginning Jazz Arranging class at Eastman. I think he was playing with a vibes player from Australia, and we were analyzing the arrangement. I was more interested in who the incredible bass player was. Here’s a nice interview talking about his career:
I crossed paths with him in NYC years later, in a completely non-musical context. Then I discovered who he was, tried not to be mildly star-struck, and we chatted about a method book he was considering starting. I think Advance Music was interested in publishing it, though I’m not sure if he ever completed it.
I feel like Stanley Clarke doesn’t need any introduction, since he was such a legend in the Return to Forever days, or his career as a leader following the success of his album “School Days.” While a lot of people know him for his work as an electric player, I’m awed by his acoustic playing too. I’ve always loved, absolutely loved, the following tracks:
I went to see Stanley playing with Ray Gomez a few times during high school years. We’d travel all the way down to NY or Long Island from Vermont to see them. At a show at the Palladium in NYC, Erica Essner and I ran into some of her friends who offered us a backstage pass, and so we shared it through the show. I got some incredible shots during that concert, and recently scanned the old negatives. I made prints of a couple of these and sold them at a later concert on Long Island where the “I Wanna Play For You” live album was recorded. They sold like hot-cakes, and it paid for the trip and tickets. Well, tickets were quite a bit more affordable back then. All of these shots show him playing electric, not acoustic bass, however.
Incidentally you can hear me screaming on that album, which my friends always give me credit for – though now it seems like it’s at a totally inappropriate moment during a quiet balled.
Since moving to LA I discovered that a couple of close friends were his step-kids now. He apparently was working on a recording of the Bach cello suites on upright, though I haven’t heard the recording yet.
Eddie plays on one of the classic jazz albums of all time, Chick Corea’s “Three Quartets” with Steve Gadd and Michael Brecker. Here’s a little “master class” at David Gage’s shop in NYC, followed by a live performance of Corea’s album, and the full LP.
At one point, I’d found the entire Three Quartets performed live with the original band, but now this is the only version of the third quartet I could find, without Brecker, Ben Solomon instead:
Or you could just listen to the original complete recorded version: