Living in a world with those “closed-minded purists”
By Jon Liebman
Week of January 20, 2020
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how certain people don’t believe the electric bass is an acceptable instrument for playing jazz, particularly when it comes to playing walking bass lines. But the argument goes even deeper. In fact, there are individuals who flat-out refuse to acknowledge the electric bass as a legitimate musical instrument altogether.
I touched on the topic in this week’s interview with Jason Heath, a prolific podcaster and self-proclaimed bass nerd, whose focus happens to be primarily on the upright bass. I asked Jason if he’d encountered this “purist snobbery” among acoustic bass players with whom he’s come in contact.
I’d set up the question, first by telling Jason about my experience interviewing world-renowned double bass virtuoso soloist Gary Karr. Aside from being incredibly friendly and open, I was impressed – and admittedly, a bit surprised – when Gary began expressing his appreciation for people like Victor Wooten, Michael Manring, Jaco Pastorius and other world-class electric bass players. Not a hint of snobbery in his voice!
I also shared another story with Jason about how I’d been in a jazz club many years ago, and was having a conversation with the drummer. We were getting on pretty well, talking about jazz, our favorite players, classic recordings, and such. Then one point, I happened mentioned to that I play electric bass too. “Not with me you don’t,” he barked. “I hate that thing!” The snobbery and disdain was palpable.
Fortunately, Jason says he’s never come across anything like that. In fact, most of the attitudes he’s seen regarding the electric bass were of downright bafflement at the feats that can be accomplished on the electric bass, far removed from anything these dyed-in-the-wool classical double bassists had ever seen. In most cases, I’m happy to convey, they were duly impressed.
If some people don’t like the electric bass, or if they prefer the upright bass over the electric, I can respect that. Looking down their noses at others, however, because they think they’re right and the others are wrong… well, that’s their issue, not ours.
Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Jason here.