Features – NAMM 2011 Bass Players Perspective

Sklar(FeaturePage)NAMM 2011: A Bass Player’s Perspective

 There’s always so much to see and do at NAMM.  For some reason, though, we tend to gravitate toward the bass players!  We got some great pictures this year, too!

I used to go to NAMM every year.  I hadn’t been in a long time, so I was really looking forward to this one.  I set out to see and do as much as possible, leaning, for the most part, toward bass-oriented stuff, naturally.  This year’s event took place at the usual venue, the Anaheim Convention Center, January 13-16.

Don’t miss our must-see photo gallery, below!

Almost immediately upon my arrival Friday afternoon, I bumped in to Larry Hartke, who invited me the Samson booth to meet the legendary Jack Bruce.  I also had a couple opportunities to get reacquainted with funkmeister Bootsy Collins and say hello to legendary British rocker Geezer Butler. Throughout the weekend, I spent a fair bit of time with Billy Joel drummer, Liberty Devitto, who was at the show promoting a coffee table book of drummers.  Just walking around the floor, getting the lay of the land, I bumped in to former Arsenio Hall bassist John B. Williams and my old schoolmate, Steve Bailey, who was talking with former John McLaughlin bottom man, Jonas Hellborg.  On the way out, it was Sekou Bunch and John Hart, then Mike Tobias, builder of two of my favorite basses, both five-strings (one fretless).

Friday evening, I stopped by the Mark Bass party, where I took in Michael Manring’s spectacular unaccompanied performance, followed by Canadian bass ace, Alain Caron.  Eventually, I ambled in to the (invitation only) Samson party, right next door.  Watching the evening’s guest of honor, Jack Bruce, perform “Sunshine of Your Love” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!  (And it happened on my birthday, no less!)  Jack’s one of my earliest bass influences – quite possibly yours, too!  As the evening unfolded, I had the privilege of enjoying performances by everyone from Black Label Society’s J.D. DeServio (a great guy, by the way!) to the legendary Nate Watts and a few other bass heroes, including Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm and Victor Wooten, as well as drum icons Peter Erskine and Gregg Bissonette, to name but a few.

Going on at the same time was the Anaheim Bass Bash, coordinated by Dethklok’s Bryan Beller, featuring Scott Ambush, Brian Bromberg, Norm Stockton and a list of other bass greats.  Though the event nearly had to be canceled because of the news of Pete Decuir’s recently announced battle with leukemia, the event went on as scheduled, refocused as a benefit for Pete.  Kudos to Bryan and everyone else for their quick thinking and for making sure the show still went on.

As to be expected, the halls were even more jam packed on Saturday than they were on Friday.  I started the day by stopping by to see my old friend Bunny Brunel and sample his new electric upright bass, an incredible instrument!  As difficult as it was to tear myself away from it, I finally managed to do so, whereupon I quickly ran into Vuyani Wakabi, leader of the Chicago Rhythm Collective, as well as Ohio hotshot bassist Doug Johns.

Eventually, I moseyed back over to the Samson booth to say hello to Frank Bello of Anthrax, Eddie Jackson of Queensrÿche and Eric Bass of Shinedown and to give another shout out to Billy Sheehan, Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm, David Ellefson, Nate Watts and J.D. DeServio.  After that I hung out with another old friend, prolific writer and reviewer, Ed Friedland.  It was good catching up with Ed after so many years of not seeing each him.  Ed’s been keeping plenty busy doing his product reviews and gigging out and about in Texas.

Just a few steps away, Dixie Dreg Dave LaRue was jamming with fellow Dreg Steve Morse at the Ernie Ball booth.  It was great seeing Dave, too, who introduced me to Jennifer Young, bassist with the Travis Larson band.  Meanwhile, Norm Stockton was tearing it up at the MTD booth, where I also encountered John McLaughlin’s amazing bassist, Etienne Mbappé.

Among the more special moments was bumping into former Whitesnake bassist, Uriah Duffy, who was holding court at the Marleaux Basses booth, along with Christian Fabian.  Jamming with Uriah (he was playing a really cool piccolo bass) was a blast!  We shared a few bass tricks with one another, too.  What a great player he is!  Yet another highlight was stopping by Oscar Prat’s booth and playing a 15-string bass.  Talk about finger and wrist strengthening exercises!

It was also nice to meet with the great people at Hal Leonard Corporation.  We talked about my upcoming (sixth!) book, Bass Aerobics, which will be out later this year.  We also kicked around all sorts of other possibilities for future publications (sorry, can’t talk about anything right now!)

At night, I had dinner with my old Miami bud, Rey Sanchez, director of the Music Business & Entertainment program at the University of Miami.  Rey’s the one who got me into the book writing business. At dinner, he gave me some great insights into taking “For Bass Players Only” to the next level.  Afterwards, I stopped by Yamaha’s All Star Guitar Night, where I took in a little more Stu Hamm, this time with guitarist Rick Vito and drummer Danny Gottlieb.

Traffic was quite a bit lighter on Sunday, as usual.  My first encounter was with Brian Fox, the new editor of Bass Player magazine, who was walking with Stu Hamm on their way to Washburn, where Stu was demonstrating the new Stu Hamm signature bass.  I got a private demonstration of some of Stu’s latest and greatest “tricks” he employs on his brand new CD, Just Outside of Normal (read our review).  Brian and I first met at Bass Player Live last fall, when he was just about to begin his new position at the magazine.  It’s been good getting to know him.  And it’s always great to see my old buddy, Stu (in fact, Stu reminded me of that period around 1991, when he would come to my house every day for about a month and we transcribed every single note on fourteen of his tunes for a Hal Leonard transcription book, which, alas, is no longer in print).

I spent much of the morning perusing the exhibits in the basement.  I saw lots of interesting instruments, many of which were from Korea, China and other countries across the globe.  Two things stand out from visiting that room.  One is seeing Paul Simon’s bass player, Bakithi “You Can Call Me Al” Kumalo, demonstrating the Kala U-Bass ukulele. The other is having the opportunity to hold – and play – a bass that belonged to late rocker, Ronnie James Dio, courtesy of Bill Valaika and Glam Guitars.

Back upstairs to the Source Audio booth, it was great hanging out with Pete Griffin of Zappa Plays Zappa, as well as Dethklok’s Bryan Beller.  The two of them jammed a bit, playing “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” as a bass duo.  How cool is that!  Another old friend, super bass hero Leland Sklar, popped by at the end and made us all laugh in his own inimitable way!

One cool thing about NAMM is you never know who you’re going to run into.  At one point, I bumped into Glen Campbell (remember him, you older folks?).  Later, on my way to talk to Larry Graham at the Warwick booth, I encountered Sinbad.  I’m not sure what he was doing there!  On my way out of Warwick, standing right in front of me, were ultimate funksters, T.M. Stevens and Blackbyrd McNight.  As the show was winding down, I swung by Mark Bass, where French wunderkind Hadrien Feraud was doing – well, I don’t know quite what he was doing, but he sure was making it look easy!

There’s so much to see and do at NAMM and it’s impossible to do it all.  For those of you who were there, feel free to send me additional comments.  For those of you who missed it this year, perhaps I’ve given you a vicarious thrill.  Either way, I hope to see you all there next year!

Written by Jon Liebman

 

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