Well for starters some of you may have guessed I got this bass from Ken Smith's place. He was marketing it for a friend of his. It's a late 19th Century German Bass that was made to look like a French Bass. Several people have looked at it and a few say it's French. Most people who have lots of bass experience think it's German with a high level of construction and really fantastic lumber.
I don't care all that much. I think it looks cool no matter where it comes from.
The grain on that top is really something. The top is two pieces that if you could find them today would be stupid money.
The Back is screaming flame maple as are the sides and neck graft.
The tuners are earlier 20th century French keys with bakalite knobs. Not all that practical but really good looking with the rest of the aesthetic. I dig them, they are kinda deco which as you may guess I'm a sucker for.
And here is a comparison shot with it standing next to my Cleveland Bass. You can see how the proportions are different but overall similar in size and capacity.
It's a 150 year old. It was made around the time Lincoln was president in the USA and we were embroiled in the civil war. It has lived through all the events of the 20the century including both World Wars. It's older than all the written history of my favorite sport Baseball. It was made before my Great Grandparents were born in Italy, in fact it was made before any member of the family I ever met was born.
That's the kind of thing that made me want a really old bass over something that was new. It's just more me.
My wife's first comment after "where the hell have you been" was "that bass looks like you."
So why this bass? Well, it felt really comfortable when I played it first of all. The way its proportioned allowed me to get around it better than most of the basses I auditioned. It has that big fat punchy sound I was hunting for. Only a handfull of the basses I played had that thing. Think Ray Brown.
It's the same string length as the Cleveland with the same D neck and similar carve so it felt immediately familiar. It's proportioned a little differently with a 1/2" smaller upper bout, a longer but thinner waist with a bit more room for the bow in the C bouts. The total body is a bit smaller and the overall bass a tad shorter. The lower bout flares like a fat bottom girl to a big 28" vs the Cleveland's 26". The ribs are 8" wide but still taper down an inch by the neck. So the center of gravity is nice and low, the bass balances pretty well all on it's own and I can reach the upper register without struggling.
The mojo factor is off the charts. The shape is sexy. I love that rounded purfling.
It is very light. About the same as the plywood bass or even a bit lighter. That's pretty odd but very important to me. I play tons of gigs and carry the bass around alot. Lighter weight is very friendly for that. I think it also helps that big sound. Now if I can keep from busting it up.....
When I first encountered it the thing was strung with old dead flexocors and it was still pretty punchy pizz. When I went to revisit it I strung it up with a Spirocore Stark E and Mittel A/D/G. My first pulls on it sounded like a gun going off. The thing is a cannon. It projects big loud deep bass across the room and has really deep sounding notes that with spiros have power and girth. Way more than most of the basses in the price point had.
I played a bunch of basses over the last several months and have learned many things from that. I set out to buy as large a bass as I could play thinking that would give me the big cannon sound I was looking for.
I wanted loud, rich, deep and fat. I've learned that size of the bass has less to do with that sound than the way it's made and the lumber it contains.
Moreover I realized that what I needed was a combination of richness and midrange to get power. The larger basses were sometimes swampy and got lost when I was playing even with just another bass. I now understand that I need tight bottom with a projecting midrange rather than just a big subwoofer.
Thats in this box.
When Kevin, the fellow that owned the bass started playing the thing arco with my modest price light Prochownik bow over those spirocores it was loud as hell, clean and projected all around the room. I wouldn't call it sweet like a cello but I'd say its rich and thick with tons of low end and a midrange push that cuts.
Nnick Lloyd told me a long time ago that when I find a bass that sounds great arco with Spirocores on it that I should buy that bass.
So it's not exactly the bass I set out looking for in my head but between my hands, my ears and my ass I found the bass I'm supposed to play.
It needs a bunch of setup work for my style. I'll need to have it in the shop for a bit to make a soundpost and nut and saddle and plane the board to my feel but after that it should be good to go.
There is the potential need for some more expensive and extensive rebuild later in it's life but that could be put off for quite a long time if ever in my time with the bass.
I'm fortunate in that I had Arnold Schnitzer, Nick Lloyd, and Ken Smith's heads in the box giving me opinions before I plunked down the dough. Nice way to buy a bass if you can do it.
Between them I got a pretty solid picture of the health of the bass and what kinds of costs I was going to encounter down the road. I felt pretty confident by the time I ponied up the dough.
There's more to the story but it's late.
I'll finish it in the next couple days including pics of the runners up that somebody needs to go buy.