Between family life, gigs, and the business of making magazines, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to take on bass students. But for the past year or so, I’ve made a point to hang on to one—an eighth-grader who at the age of 14 is every bit the electric bass player I was in my twenties. In our weekly 30-minute lessons (which I normally stretch to nearly an hour), we typically work through the pieces he’s playing in his middle-school jazz band, discussing theory, technique, and groove. But a recent statement of intent on his part threatens to totally tank our student-teacher relationship: he wants to learn upright.
Of course, I’m all for it—any bassist serious about playing jazz should absolutely get to know his or her way around an acoustic bass. But while I own a lovely instrument (a 1939 Kay C-1), I would hardly consider myself a gig-worthy upright player. Which begs the question: How do I teach it? On one hand, I feel compelled to cut my student loose, maybe hooking him up with a friend or colleague who can actually show him how to play. The other part of me views this as just the kind of challenge I need to take my own playing to the next level. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit self-centered. But when I think back to the most important developments in my own playing, I realize it was the enthusiasm around me—from bandmates, teachers, etc.—that got me really amped about playing bass. If I can get my student half as excited as I am about taking on upright, I think that’s a job well done.
Here’s hoping this month’s issue gets you equally stoked about tackling new challenges, whether in the old-school grooves of Blue Cheer and War, the mind-bending mathcore riffs of the Dillinger Escape Plan, or the fusion workout of David Sanborn’s “Hideaway.” If I did my job right, our cover story on Jonas Hellborg will get you digging in to his amazing oeuvre and wondering how you might better follow your own fancy. See you on the other side.