Air Force Academy bassist is prolific jazz artist
By David Sands
September 30, 2015
If your only conception of a military band is marching drummers and tuba players bellowing out John Philip Sousa tunes, Colin Trusedell is going to be a real breath of fresh air.
He’s a military musician, but you can forget about the tubas and trumpets; his instrument of choice isn’t brass, it’s bass. Trusedell happens to be a bassist in the U.S. Air Force Academy Band in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he also serves as musical director for the group’s top 40 ensemble, Blue Steel.
While he’s comfortable with a wide range of styles, it’s worth noting that he has a serious passion for jazz. In fact, he’s released several jazz albums through his MyShowsLive label: Some of My Best Friends Are…Divas, his upright bass trio debut; Quartet of Jazz Death, which features him on electric bass; and the solo EP All By Myself.
Not one for idling around, the busy senior airman also teaches bass as an adjunct professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo and is gearing up to host a jazz show on KCMJ, a community radio station.
Intrigued by both his profession and musical output, FBPO’s Jon Liebman recently got a hold of Trusedell to learn more about his colorful musical background, love of Roscoe basses and a new upcoming album.
A native of Indianapolis, Trusedell grew up surrounded by music. Indeed, it’s fair to say it’s in his blood. The bassist’s father was once a professional jazz drummer and his mother taught elementary school music for over 20 years.
Trusedell started off playing guitar, but later took to bass around 13. His initial nudge towards the bass came when there was an opening for a bass player in his middle school band, but he felt an emotional pull as well.
“It attracted me almost on a subconscious level, the lowness when you hear a bass player play,” he tells FBPO.
From that start, he proceeded to play in the high school band and a variety of rock groups. Trusedell was also lucky enough to study under several prominent Indianapolis musicians, including Harry Miedema, the University of Indianapolis director of Jazz Studies, and Joe Deal, who led jazz ensembles at the university.
As for early influences, the musician says the “game changed” for him after his father handed him Jaco Pastorius‘ self-titled 1976 album. His dad also introduced him to Christian McBride, another huge influence—as was Avishai Cohen, who he learned of through a teacher.
After high school, Trusedell wasn’t super interested in college, but wanted to get out on his own. He had seen military bands play at his school and decided that was the route he wanted to go. In 2004, he auditioned for the Army, Navy and Marines, was accepted to all three and chose the Navy.
At the Navy’s boot camp in Illinois, the bassist went through the same demanding training every naval recruit must undergo. From there, he headed to the U.S. Armed Services School of Music, which trains musicians for the Army, Navy and Marines.
His six months at the school put him inside “the most intense musical environment” he’d ever experienced. During a typical day, he would spend eight or nine hours playing in ensembles and learning theory and composition. On top of that, his teacher would assign about 25 hours a week of mandatory practice.
“My bass teacher was an Army staff sergeant,” he says. “This guy was very intimidating. If you didn’t do the tasks he had set up for you that week [and] you came in and you played like crap, it’d be pushups.”
Stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, Trusedell served in the Navy from 2004 to 2008. During this enlistment he toured extensively with jazz, rock, and Latin groups throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“I spent four years, traveled all over the place, did a bunch of cool gigs, TV gigs [and] played on The Today Show a couple of times,” the bassist tells FBPO. “At that point, I feel my playing was ready to go play a big school. I got a full music scholarship to the University of Miami and didn’t have to pay anything.”
In 2008, he came out of U Miami with a Bachelor in Music, Music Business and Entertainment Industries degree. That was followed by a Masters in Music and Music Education from Boston University in 2011. While in Boston, he also worked for a brief spell with the concert promotion company AEG Live, but after graduation returned to the armed services to work with the Air Force Academy Band in Colorado Springs.
His current group, Blue Steel, is one of thirteen ensembles in the USAF Academy band and specializes in contemporary and Top 40 music.
“The main mission of the band here is to support the Air Force Academy,” he says. “We go on these different forum trips…. Basically the goal is to go to a metropolitan area and saturate it for a week, and then hopefully people come to the forum.”
If you happen to catch Trusedell onstage, chances are you’ll see him playing a Roscoe bass. He’s been a firm believer in the company’s instruments since he was introduced to them by a master sergeant at the academy. Trying out one for himself the first time, he was blown away by its sound and construction.
He quickly ordered himself a customized Roscoe, a five-string LG 3005 series bass with an exhibition grade cocobolo top and fingerboard.
“It’s just one of the most beautiful basses I’ve seen,” he says. “It sounds so clean and the tone that you can get out of it, it’s up there with basses that cost in the $8,000 to $10,000 range.”
Trusedell now owns two Roscoes, one for work and one for personal use. As for strings, he goes with Elixir for electric and with Thomastik Spiro Core when he’s playing upright. When it comes to amplification, the Air Force musician favors MarkBass speakers and relies Ampeg SVT Pros for heads. Trusedell is all over the map with effects, though, making use of an Electro-Harmonix POG, MarkBass Super Synth, and various MXR products.
In addition to his Air Force work, the bassist is now wrapping up the final stages of his new album, It’s All About The Hustle, which he calls a “straight ahead” jazz record.
A video of the album’s title track is available on Trusedell’s website, and the song percolates with energy. That’s no coincidence. The album’s 10 original tracks were inspired by the likes of Christian McBride, Ray Brown and John Clayton, fellow bassists with a knack for entertaining folks.
“It’s a real entertaining, toe-tapping jazz experience,” the musician says. “I wrote all the tunes with that in mind. I was just trying to create an awesome vibe that people want to listen to.”
It’s All About The Hustle is a trio album, featuring Trusedell on upright, Shawn Hanlon on piano and keys and Paul Shaw on drums. The three of them rehearsed for several months and played a ton of gigs before recording it in early August. Now in the final phase of production, it’s slated for an Oct. 20 release.
After that, the bassist is looking forward to recording a sequel to Quartet of Jazz Death in January. The timing on that one, however, is pretty important.
“I’m also having my second child in February, so I’m kind of having to time things out a little bit,” he says. “There’ll be a lot of down time [after January] and hopefully next summer [we’ll] make a big splash with it.”
The following Colin Trusedell releases are available here:
All By Myself (EP)
Quartet of Jazz Death
Some of My Best Friends Are … Divas
FBPO interview with Chuck Bergeron
FBPO interview with John Clayton
FBPO interview with Christian McBride
FBPO interview with Nicky Orta.
FBPO feature: Jaco Pastorius